Passengers from Jacksonville were among the 116 people hurt in a deadly Amtrak train crash in South Carolina.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators said the passenger train was traveling south when it came to a switch in the tracks that diverted it to a side rail, where a freight train was parked.
“It shook a lot and it came off the rails. Everybody was panicking,” Kevin Lucien said. “You could smell gasoline.”
The crash caused the lead engine and several passenger cars to derail, officials said.
Two Amtrak employees, 36-year-old conductor Michael Cella of Orange Park and 54-year-old Michael Kempf of Savannah, were killed.
“There were bodies everywhere. The seats came up off the floor, glass came out all over the train – just bodies lying everywhere on top of one another,” Wendy Comerico said.
She was among the passengers bused to Jacksonville after the crash. She said it seemed like everyone on the train was hurt.
“I’ve never seen anything like it ever,” Comerico said.
The NTSB said investigators recovered video from a forward-facing camera on the Amtrak train. They are searching for the trains’ data recorders and other evidence.
“It was real dark. A few train parts laying here, laying there and a lot of diesel fuel all over the ground,” Izzachas Larison said after getting off the bus in Jacksonville.
An NTSB spokesperson said the agency will not speculate on what caused the crash. Investigators are expected to be at the crash site for five to seven days.
“A couple of lives were lost, but we made it. We just prayed all the way home,” Comerico said.
Cox Media Group