No one traveling aboard an Amtrak passenger train on a February night in 2018 suspected that it was on the same track as a stopped CSX freight train.
The resulting collision resulted in injury and death and illustrated how suddenly a train crash can occur.
In 2018, an Amtrak train was traveling through South Carolina on its regular route from New York to Miami when it collided with a stopped CSX freight train at an estimated 59 miles per hour. The accident occurred about 2:35 a.m., and, according to reports, it appeared that the passenger train was on the wrong track. Pictures showing derailed and mangled railroad cars and smashed engines accompanied subsequent news stories. It was the third Amtrak crash within two months in areas across the country.
Consequences of the crash
No one was aboard the CSX train, but the engineer and a conductor on the Amtrak train died in the mishap. Among the 139 passengers, there were 116 who sustained injuries that ranged from scratches to broken bones. Medical personnel saw passengers and crew members at area hospitals and, incredibly, discharged many with only minor injuries.
Unprepared for the unexpected
Train passengers do not have to wear seatbelts and are free to move around. Because they cannot see what is ahead on the tracks, they have no way of knowing that a crash is imminent and are therefore unprepared to deal with it. While a train may strike a car or truck at a crossing, this kind of collision may not cause a derailment nor prove strong enough to affect the passengers. However, a collision between trains is a much more serious matter, as the Amtrak-CSX incident illustrates.
Who is at fault?
Train crash cases are complex because more than one party may be at fault for the resulting injuries or fatalities among passengers and train crews. For example, CSX owns and maintains the tracks and signal systems in the area where the Amtrak-CSX collision took place. CSX is, therefore, the logical place to begin an investigation into fault for the accident on behalf of the injured or deceased. The investigation would also expand to Amtrak in case faulty parts, lack of proper maintenance or employee negligence or recklessness contributed to the crash.