Two dead, 116 hurt after passenger train hits freight train
AT LEAST two people have been killed and more than 100 injured after a passenger train collided with a freight train in South Carolina.
An Amtrak train carrying 139 passengers and eight crew members was travelling between New York and Miami when it hit the CSX freight train and derailed near Columbia.
"Amtrak Train 91, operating between New York and Miami, came in contact with a CSX freight train at around 2:35am in Cayce, South Carolina," Amtrak said in a statement on its website.
"The lead engine was derailed, as well as some passenger cars."
The two people killed were were Amtrak employees, Henry McMaster, Governor of South Carolina, said. Amtrak's Silver Star was travelling at an estimated 59mph, he added.
He said 116 people were taken to four hospitals. The main trauma hospital in the area had three patients in critical or serious condition, with the rest treated for minor injuries such as cuts, bruises and whiplash, said Dr Steve Shelton, Palmetto Health director of emergency preparedness.
Donald Trump has been briefed on the accident and the President is receiving regular updates, the White House said.
The crash happened near a stretch of tracks by a rail yard about 10 miles (16km) south of Columbia, where several track spurs split off for freight cars to be unloaded.
Many passengers were asleep with the train began shaking violently and then slammed to a halt, passenger Derek Pettaway told CBS.
"You knew we'd hit something or we'd derailed," he said.
Elliot Smith told The State newspaper of Columbia he was staying with a friend when they heard what sounded like a propane tank exploding.
"The sound was so loud, you instantly knew it was bad," he said. Mr Smith said he and his friend saw passengers limping along the tracks, while others tried to get everyone out of the cars.
The passenger train was part of Amtrak' Silver Star Service. Local media said some 5,000 gallons fuel leaked as a result of the collision.
Authorities said they haven't determined if both trains were moving or if the Amtrak train was diverted on to a side track. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
TV footage from the crash scene showed the aftermath of the collision, with the Amtrak engine on its side and its front crumpled.
Amtrak officials worked to gather luggage and other belongings and line up buses to take passengers on to their destinations.
Those who weren't hurt were taken in patrol cars to a shelter, said Adam Myrick, a spokesman for the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, and local businesses provided coffee and breakfast.
"We know they are shaken up quite a bit. We know this is like nothing else they have ever been through. So we wanted to get them out of the cold, get them out of the weather - get them to a warm place," Mr Myrick said.
It is the third deadly wreck involving Amtrak in less than two months.
Last December, three people were killed when an Amtrak passenger train derailed in Washington state.
In late January, an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of the US Congress killed one person in a garbage truck it collided with in Virginia.