Train crash in South Carolina highlights the need for positive train control

In another incident, an Amtrak train was diverted to a side track and crashed into an empty freight train in South Carolina, injuring 116 people and killing two employees.

Train number 91 was headed south and was supposed to travel straight through the tracks, but because the rail switch had manually been switched, the train went down the wrong tracks. There is a padlock attached to the switch, which is the standard procedure for manually operated ones.

Video footage of the incident is being sent to Washington to be inspected in order to see who is at fault, as well as check to see if the speed limit was being obeyed.


A total of 116 people were transported to hospitals, and two Amtrak employees, engineer Michael Kempf and conductor Michael Cella were killed. There were 146 passengers and nine crew members on board.

The section of track that the train was operating on did not have positive train control enabled, which is a system that combines data from GPS, wireless radio signals and computers to monitor the location of trains and stop them if they are going to collide or are speeding. It was designed to prevent human errors in accidents by ensuring that trains are run in line with signals, speed limits and other rules that apply.

For example, if a train conductor isn't aware of a curve in the tracks ahead and doesn't slow the train down, the software would automatically detect the curve and slow the train's speed or stop the train completely, if necessary.

Due to a 2008 collision that killed 25 people near Los Angeles, a law was passed that ordered the nation’s railroads to adopt the technology by December 2015. That time came and went and several companies threatened to shut down unless given more time, which lead to the deadline being extended to 2018, or 2020 under certain circumstances.

Though the freight train did not have crew members on board, around 5,000 gallons of fuel were spilled in the crash.

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