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NTSB says switch in the “locked” position caused Amtrak to veer onto siding

Pine Ridge, SC (Paul Kirby) - Robert Sumwalt, the chief investigator of the NTSB working on the train collision in Pine Ridge, said during a 4 p.m. press conference Sundaythat a switch was “lined and locked” when the Amtrak train sped onto a siding that a CXS freight train was on. The ensuing crash killed the two operators of the Amtrak engine and injured more than 100 people.

The track system, siding, crossing warning systems, and all other aspects of the rails the Amtrak train was on are owned by CSX. The switch that takes trains off the main line and onto a siding at the Dixiana yard was in the "lined and locked" position according to Sumwalt. In other words, the switch for the tracks that would have taken the Amtrak train south toward Florida, instead caused the passenger train to veer onto the siding track the CSX train was sitting on unmanned. The CSX trains are a common sight at that location as they pull in and out of sidings to unload new vehicles for distribution to dealerships by trucks, and for the loading and unloading of sea-land type containers.

The NTSB has not identified why the switch was in the wrong position, why warning systems didn’t alert the Amtrak operators of that, or who might have left it in a position that caused the train carrying more than 140 people toward Florida to veer onto the siding. The NTSB has recovered the camera that was looking forward from the Amtrak engine, and they also have the“black box” data recorder, much like commercial airplanes, that records speed, braking, and other pertinent information about how the train was operating before the collision. The NTSB’s final report may take months to compile and release.

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