A Miami-bound Amtrak train packed with passengers collided with a parked freight train early Sunday morning in South Carolina, injuring more than 100 and killing two employees.
Florida resident and Amtrak engineer Michael Cella and the train’s conductor Michael Kempf were identified as the two individuals killed in the crash. Both Cella and Kempf were pronounced dead at the scene due to body trauma sustained in the collision, according to a statement from the Lexington County coroner.
Kempf's brother-in-law, Gabriel de Leon, lives in South Florida and traveled to Georgia to be with the family during this difficult time. He says Kempf worked at Amtrak about 15 years.
"He's a nice guy, excellent person," de Leon said. "What can I say about him? What I wanna say is that life changes every second so enjoy life."
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board say a locked switch diverted the Amtrak train off its track and onto another track, one in which a freight train was parked.
"Key to this investigation is learning why that switch was lined that way," said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
The train was moving at about 59 mph when it collided with the CSX freight train at 2:35 a.m. near a switchyard about 10 miles south of Columbia.
“I hope I can forget it. I don’t plan to get on the train again,” said Gloria Johnson, who was traveling to Miami with her husband, Walter, for a 2-week vacation.
Investigators are now searching for the event data recorders, while the train’s camera is being analyzed in Washington D.C.
The NTSB has scheduled a news conference for 4 p.m. Monday to give an update on their investigation.