‘You instantly knew it was bad’: Local resident recounts scene of fatal Amtrak crash

Elliot Smith, 22, of West Columbia said he was at a friend’s house off of Fish Hatchery Road about 2:30 or 2:45 when they heard Sunday’s fatal Amtrak crash, which he said was about three miles away.

The crash sounded like a propane tank had exploded.

“The sound was so loud, you instantly knew it was bad,” he said.

A crash between an Amtrak train and a CSX freight train occurred near Charleston Highway and Pine Ridge Road around 2:35 a.m. Sunday. The lead engine and a few passenger cars derailed.

Smith and his friends went to the crash scene. When they arrived, they saw passengers lined up beside the train. Some were limping. Several passengers were still getting out of the train.

The passengers seemed to be of all ages, including children. He heard one child crying, and he saw some older people with their arms around emergency personnel.

He said about 50 emergency personnel were helping to get people out of the train. He smelled smoke, but didn’t see any.

More than 5,000 gallons of fuel spilled from the crash, with all leaks secured, local officials said.

For the 60 or so who are classified as injured, their injuries range from small scratches to broken bones, according to Lexington County public information officer Harrison Cahill.

Karen Edwards and her 7-year-old daughter, Maddie, took doughnuts to rescue workers near the scrash site Sunday morning. They gave a bag of doughnuts to a Highway Patrol trooper guarding the entrance to the scene.

Maddie she hopes the doughnuts “make them feel happy.”

The first-grader, who was holding a stuffed giraffe, said she and her mom prayed about the people who were hurt in the crash and hope they get better. In a soft voice, she said they also prayed for the people who were killed.

Derek Pettaway, a passenger in one of the cars near the end of the train, told CNN that he was asleep at the time of the impact.

Pettaway said officials reacted swiftly and passengers were led off quickly.

“Nobody was panicking, people were in shock more than anything,” he said.

Pettaway said it was too dark to see very much, but most of the cars he did see were off the tracks but remained upright.