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Accident Report Detail

 
​Amtrak Passenger Train Head-on Collision With Stationary CSX Freight Train

Executive Summary

​On February 4, 2018, about 2:27 a.m. local time, southbound Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) train P91, operating on a track warrant, was diverted from the main track through a reversed hand-throw switch into a track and collided head-on with a stationary CSX Transportation Corporation (CSX) local freight train F777. The accident occurred on CSX’s Florence Division, Columbia Subdivision in Cayce, South Carolina.

The engineer and conductor of the Amtrak train died because of the collision. Ninety-one passengers and crewmembers on the Amtrak train were transported to medical facilities. The engineer of the stopped CSX train had exited the lead locomotive before the Amtrak train entered the track. When he saw that it was entering the track, he ran to safety and was not injured. The conductor on the CSX lead locomotive saw the Amtrak train approaching on the track and ran to the back of the locomotive. The conductor was thrown off the locomotive and sustained minor injuries. Damage was estimated at $25.4 million.

The normal method of operation on this segment of track was by wayside signal indications of a traffic control system. On the day prior to the accident, CSX signal personnel began upgrading signal system components to implement positive train control on the subdivision. Signal personnel ceased work for the day at 7:00 p.m., prior to completing planned work. The signal suspension remained in place resulting in the continued use of track warrants to move trains through the affected area of signal suspension.

At the time of the accident, it was dark, and the sky was cloudy. The temperature was 40°F, and there was light wind from the east.


Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause of this collision of trains was the failure of the CSX Transportation Corporation to assess and mitigate the risk associated with operating through a signal suspension, which eliminated system redundancy for detecting a switch in the wrong position. The CSX Transportation Corporation conductor failed to properly reposition the switch for the main track, which allowed National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) train P91 to be routed onto the Silica Storage track where the standing CSX train F777 was located. Contributing to the accident was the Federal Railroad Administration’s failure to implement effective regulation to mitigate the risk of misaligned switch accidents. Also contributing to the accident was National Railroad Passenger Corporation’s (Amtrak) failure to conduct a risk assessment prior to operating during a signal suspension.


Accident Location: Cayce , SC USA  
Accident Date: 2/4/2018
Accident ID: RRD18MR003

Date Adopted: 7/23/2019
NTSB Number: RAR1902
NTIS Number: PB2019-101398