Agency: S.C. train ride inspector faked report

Associated Press | March 21, 2011
By Meg Kinnard

COLUMBIA, S.C. A state inspector falsified a safety report and never tested a children's train ride that crashed over the weekend, killing a boy and injuring dozens, officials said Monday.

Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation chief Catherine Templeton told reporters that Donnie Carrigan could not have tested the ride March 16 because a battery in the train was dead, making it inoperable. Carrigan marked the train's operation at proper speed as "satisfactory," according to the agency's report.

"Unfortunately the inspector did not complete his job," Templeton said.

Carrigan, a 20-year agency employee, has been fired. Officials have not said what they think caused the train to derail.

Benji Easler, 6, died in the wreck Saturday at Cleveland Park in Spartanburg in the northwestern part of the state during the train's first ride of the spring season. His parents and siblings were also injured.

Earlier Monday, hospital officials said the train's driver had been released from a hospital in Greer.

As soon as agency officials learned of the crash, Templeton said Carrigan came forward and admitted he had filed a complete report but had not done a thorough inspection.

"We are very sorry for the tragedy," Templeton said. "I don't have any reason to doubt this man's character."

Also at the news conference, Gov. Nikki Haley pledged her support for the crash investigation, which is being handled by the Spartanburg Public Safety Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

Public Safety Capt. Art Littlejohn said authorities were still reviewing witness statements and 911 calls.