Mother of slain Amtrak engineer says he was shaken by past crash


The engineer killed in Sunday’s Amtrak crash in South Carolina was shaken by a previous accident and sought help, his relatives claim.

Michael Kempf was driving a train that hit a car at a grade crossing about a year ago during his typical route in the Carolinas, his mother, Catherine Kempf, told The Associated Press.

The veteran engineer was bothered by the event, which she couldn’t recall much about, because “he had people’s lives in his hands,” recalled his mother, who lived with Kempf in Savannah, Ga. He met with a counselor to discuss the ordeal.

Kempf, 54, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, were killed early Sunday when their Miami-bound Amtrak train collided with an idle CSX train. More than 100 of the 147 aboard were injured.

More on the crash:

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Amtrak train crashes into freight train in South Carolina
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Amtrak train crashes into freight train in South Carolina
CAYCE, SC - FEBRUARY 04: Investigators make their way around the train wreckage under the Charleston Highway overpass where two trains collided early Sunday morning on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. According to reports, two people were killed and over 100 injured when the Amtrak train collided with a freight train. (Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images)
CAYCE, SC - FEBRUARY 04: Investigators make their way around the train wreckage under the Charleston Highway overpass where two trains collided early Sunday morning on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. According to reports, two people were killed and over 100 injured when the Amtrak train collided with a freight train. (Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured February 4, 2018 when a passenger train carrying 147 people hit a freight train in the US state of South Carolina, authorities said.Amtrak train 91 -- traveling between New York and Miami -- derailed in Cayce, outside the state capital Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 am (0730 GMT). It was the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December, raising questions about the safety of the national railway service. / AFP PHOTO / Logan Cyrus (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured February 4, 2018 when a passenger train carrying 147 people hit a freight train in the US state of South Carolina, authorities said.Amtrak train 91 -- traveling between New York and Miami -- derailed in Cayce, outside the state capital Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 am (0730 GMT). It was the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December, raising questions about the safety of the national railway service. / AFP PHOTO / Logan Cyrus (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
CAYCE, SC - FEBRUARY 04: Investigators make their way around the train wreckage under the Charleston Highway overpass where two trains collided early Sunday morning on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. According to reports, two people were killed and over 100 injured when the Amtrak train collided with a freight train. (Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images)
A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured February 4, 2018 when a passenger train carrying 147 people hit a freight train in the US state of South Carolina, authorities said.Amtrak train 91 -- traveling between New York and Miami -- derailed in Cayce, outside the state capital Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 am (0730 GMT). It was the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December, raising questions about the safety of the national railway service. / AFP PHOTO / Logan Cyrus (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
A derailed Amtrak car can be seen up the tracks near a crossing after an early morning collision with a CSX freight train on February 4, 2018 in Cayce, South Carolina. Two Amtrak employees were killed and more than 100 others injured February 4, 2018 when a passenger train carrying 147 people hit a freight train in the US state of South Carolina, authorities said.Amtrak train 91 -- traveling between New York and Miami -- derailed in Cayce, outside the state capital Columbia, when it collided with the CSX freight train at around 2:30 am (0730 GMT). It was the third deadly incident involving an Amtrak train since December, raising questions about the safety of the national railway service. / AFP PHOTO / Logan Cyrus (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
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His younger brother, Rich, told the Daily News this week that he’d complained of stress from past accidents, but alleged Amtrak disregarded his pleas.

“He was voicing concerns about getting killed,” Rich Kempf, who lives in Mesa, Ariz., told the News on Sunday. "They’d push him right back on a train again.”

Amtrak previously declined to confirm whether Kempf had recently been in other accidents, or received counseling for the incidents.

Cella, a married father of two, lived with his family in Florida.

“There’s just ... it’s too much right now,” his wife, Christine, told the AP.

Train 91, which left out of New York, was diverted to a side track just south of Columbia, S.C., early Sunday when it crashed into the freight train.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said Monday night that CSX, which controls the tracks, had its signal system down to install Positive Train Control (PTC) technology.

Those signals would have alerted the train to halt before getting to the switch, which was padlocked to move to the side track, NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Monday night.

With News Wire Services

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