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A passenger train was apparently travelling on the wrong track when it collided with a parked freight train in South Carolina, killing two crew members and injuring at least 116 other people.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were in Cayce, South Carolina, where Amtrak Train 91, carrying 139 passengers and eight crew to Miami from New York, hit the CSX Corp freight train at about 2.35am local time on Sunday and derailed near the state capital Columbia.
Amtrak engineer Michael Kempf, 54, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, were killed, Lexington County coroner Margaret Fisher told reporters at a news conference. Autopsies were under way, she said.
Two of the 116 people injured were in critical condition, authorities said.
"It appears Amtrak was on the wrong track," South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster told reporters. He said the freight train, which had no one aboard, "was on the track it was supposed to be on".
The area has three rows of tracks and the freight train was parked on a "loading track or a side track" and "not the main track", McMaster said.
"It's a horrible thing to see, to understand what force was involved," he said. "The first engine of the freight train was torn up, and the single engine of the passenger train is barely recognisable."
Amtrak said it was "deeply saddened" by the deaths. It said CSX owns and maintains the area where the crash occurred.
"CSX controls the dispatching of all trains, including directing the signal systems which control access to sidings and yards," Amtrak said in a statement.
The southbound passenger train's locomotive was lying on its side, and the first car was bent and also derailed although it remained upright, images from the scene showed.
At least four cars of the freight train, which was northbound before it was parked, were crumpled, looking like crushed tin foil, but remained on the tracks.
The passenger train was part of Amtrak' Silver Star Service, and the wreck occurred about 8km southwest of Columbia. Officials said about 5000 gallons (22,800 litres) of fuel leaked as a result of the collision, but it was under control and no threat to public safety.
US President Donald Trump was getting regular updates on the crash while at his resort in Palm Beach, Florida. "My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this mornings train collision in South Carolina," he tweeted. "Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they've done!"
This article first appeared on www.sbs.com.au
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