• NTSB says safety changes proposed after crash that killed local train conductor are 'unacceptable'

    By: Ryan Nelson , Action News Jax


    On Feb. 4, 2018, an Amtrak train crashed head-on into a parked CSX train in Cayce, South Carolina. Michael Cella, the Amtrak engineer and conductor and a husband and father from Orange Park, died, and 92 others were hurt.

    The Amtrak train was on the main track and had been unexpectedly diverted onto a side track while going 56 mph. 

    Amtrak's crew had no idea that a CSX crew had manually flipped a track switch, diverting the Amtrak train onto the side track.

    National Transportation and Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said that by policy the CSX crew should have manually flipped the switch back to re-line it with the main track.

    On Tuesday, Sumwalt spoke about the accident and said "the risk persists to this day unmitigated.”  

    Sumwalt was also critical of the Federal Railroad Administration for not implementing recommendations for trains to approach switch locations "at restricted speed and report the switch position to the dispatcher.”

    Instead, he said, the FRD "proposed recommending that railroads adhere to best industry practices.”

    Sumwalt wants that 'refusal' to be ruled “unacceptable.”


    Action News Jax reached out to the FRA..

    Warren Flatau, FRA spokesperson, said in a statement: 

    “Before the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of the Cayce, SC, accident concluded, FRA diligently followed up on a NTSB recommendation to provide instructions for railroads to follow when planning and implementing temporary signal suspensions.  The resulting safety advisory recommends railroads take additional specific precautions by adopting industry best practices for planning and executing temporary signal suspensions.  These best practices include reducing train speeds where switches have been manually lined or adjusted for maintenance and also address the duration and size of such activities.

    In the past two years, FRA has overseen major progress by railroads implementing positive train control (PTC) systems. Deployment of PTC technology nationwide is an unprecedented undertaking and FRA has followed the law governing its implementation at every step. FRA’s highest priority is, and will continue to be, safety.”

    Right now, railroad companies are upgrading their tracks with that PTC technology, which could have prevented this accident.  

    “Positive train control” automatically stops a train to avoid certain crashes. It was supposed to be installed this year on all tracks, but the government has extended the deadline until 2020.

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