He saw it coming.
An engineer killed on an Amtrak train that slammed into a parked freight train and derailed in South Carolina early Sunday was worried about getting killed on the job, his brother said.
After a recent round of traumatic train accidents and deadly derailments, Michael Kempf, an Army veteran who worked in the railroad industry for more than a decade, said running the rails would be the death of him.
“Me and him always talked about this, something happening,” Rich Kempf, who lives in Mesa, Ariz., told the Daily News. “He was voicing concerns about getting killed.”
Kempf and conductor Michael Cella, 36, died after Amtrak Train 91 headed for Miami from New York, collided with a stationary CSX freight train at about 2:35 a.m. south of Cayce, S.C., according to Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher.
Another 116 people were injured in the horrific crash, during which thousands of gallons of fuel spilled, according to officials.
It was the third deadly accident for Amtrak in the last two months, and each of the other ones weighed heavily on Kempf.
The father of three sons who lived in Savannah, Ga., spent 20 years in the Army, his brother said. Kempf was stationed in South Korea and Panama, and he was a tank driver for some of that time.
He went to work for CSX once he got out of the Army, and spent between eight or nine years first as a conductor and then as a certified engineer, Rich Kempf told The News. He later went to work for Amtrak.
“They paid good money and you got good benefits,” he said.
“He was a good guy,” Rich Kempf continued, adding his brother had cared for their mother since their father’s death 12 years ago. “He’s been taking care of my mom, his kids and his wife.”
Cella, who lived in Orange Park, Fla., was a married father of two children, The State newspaper reported.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said federal investigators will determine the cause of the accident.
But he had his own theories about what happened, based on early evidence.
“It appears to me that the CSX was on the track that it was supposed to be on,” McMaster told reporters. “It appears that Amtrak was on the wrong track.”
McMaster did not say how fast the Amtrak train was going, indicating it was possibly moving as fast as 59 mph.
Amtrak President Richard Anderson said CSX controlled the signal system on that stretch of rail, which was down at the time.
Instead, Anderson said, trains were being manually routed by dispatchers. He stopped short, however, of saying whether that contributed to the crash, deferring to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Photos showed the mangled front of the CSX locomotive, which officials said was empty at the time of the collision.
“That’s about as forceful you can get,” McMaster said, adding the CSX train was “barely recognizable.”
“It’s quite a crash,” he said.
“This is bad. Really bad,” wrote Twitter user jdspires, alongside a video showing the massive emergency response at the site of the wreckage.
“So many ambulances,” he said in another post.
A Lexington County spokesman said 116 people were treated for injuries, which local media said ranged from bruises to broken bones.
The Amtrak train, which left from New York’s Penn Station, had 139 passengers and eight crew members aboard at the time of the crash.
All passengers were cleared out by 6:30 a.m. Those who weren’t injured were escorted to a middle school in Pine Ridge, S.C., where they took shelter.
“Their spirits were unusually good,” McMaster said. “I know there’s one woman there on her way to her husband’s funeral.”
Many of the passengers were reportedly jolted from their sleep by the accident.
One of them was Derek Pettaway, who was headed for Orlando and was treated for whiplash.
“Nobody was panicking,” Pettaway told CNN. “I think people were more in shock than anything else.”
President Trump was also briefed on the accident during a weekend stay at his Mar-a-Lago resort near Palm Beach, Fla.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims involved in this morning’s train collision in South Carolina. Thank you to our incredible First Responders for the work they’ve done!” Trump later tweeted.
About 5,000 gallons of diesel poured out of the CSX train, officials said, but the flow caused no public threat.
The derailment marks the second incident for Amtrak in the past week.
A chartered train carrying dozens of GOP Congress members and their families struck a garbage truck in Crozet, Va., on Wednesday, killing one person on the vehicle.
And three people were killed in December, when a barreling Amtrak train went off the rails in Washington state.
An initial NTSB report in December indicated the train’s engineer remarked on the train going nearly 80 mph on a curve where the speed limit was 30 mph.