Gov. Henry McMaster gives details of fatal Cayce train wreck at press conference

The train collision in Cayce resulted in the deaths of two Amtrak employees, according to Gov. Henry McMaster who held a crash update press conference Sunday morning at the SC Emergency Management Department headquarters in West Columbia. He was joined by State Sen. Nikki Setzler of West Columbia, and Lexington County Council Chairwoman Debbie Summers. Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon, Lexington County Spokesman Harrison Cahill, and Public Safety Director David Kerr also spoke.

It was “a horrible thing to see,” McMaster said of the wreckage of the trains. He said the engine of the Amtrak train was “barely recognizable.” because of the force of the collision. The CSX freight train engine was also damaged considerably. No one was on the CSX train. It was empty. There was no freight on it.

McMaster said the Amtrak train hit the stationary CSX freight train that was on a loading (or side) track. Indications are, McMaster said, that the Amtrak train was on the wrong track, and estimated to be moving at 59 MPH. The train was coming from New England and it was heading toward Charleston, then to Florida. It had stopped in Columbia to add passengers.

McMaster said there were 147 people on the train, and eight of those were Amtrak employees. He said the two killed worked for Amtrak. There were 116 people taken from the crash site. some had minor injuries, and some had serious injuries, McMaster said. Some have already been released. He said the Amtrak information line is: 1-800-523-9101.

The emergency response team to the crash includes the FBI, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Red Cross, said McMaster. Local and Lexington County responders were the first to the scene, but they are pulling back as other agencies investigate.

Lexington County Spokesman Harrison Cahill said the 911 call for the accident came in at 2:34 a.m. and the first law enforcement unit was on the scene at 2:39, EMS arrived and 2:40 and fire units arrived at 2:42.

Sheriff Jay Koon said the county called “all hands on deck” to get passengers off of the train. He also said the FBI and the S.C. Highway patrol’s accident reconstruction (MAIT) team are investigating the crash.

McMaster said he counted more than 30 people being served coffee and breakfast by the Red Cross at Pine Ridge Middle School, that had been set up as a shelter. Some were leaving the shelter, and others were coming in, after release from the hospital. McMaster described the passengers in the shelter as in “good spirits.” He also said site workers were working to unload luggage to get it to its owners.
David Kerr of Lexington County Public Safety and Kim Stinson at the SC Emergency Management Department said emergency response teams undergo regular training for incidents like the Cayce train wreck.

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