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Probe: Speed caused SC train ride derailment

May 23, 2011 7:54:00 PM - thestate.com
Excessive speed was to blame for the South Carolina miniature train derailment that killed a 6-year-old boy and injured dozens of others, according to authorities who said Monday they used video shot by a young passenger to help determine how fast the ride was moving.

Benji Easler was killed and 28 others injured when the train went off the rails and into a ditch at Spartanburg's Cleveland Park on March 19. Investigators said the train was going more than 20 mph, nearly three times recommended speeds.

"The only problem was the operator," said investigator and accident reconstruction specialist Charles Manning. "Too fast. That was the complete cause of the accident, just too fast."

An attorney for train operator Matt Conrad said investigators never interviewed his client beyond his statement during an ambulance ride to the hospital in which he said, "I was going too (expletive) fast."

Grant Varner has said his client was in shock when he made that statement. Conrad has said he is distraught over the crash, but did not think he was to blame.

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