Train wreck near Coward kills one man

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A Florida man is dead after an Amtrak train hit him while he was crossing the tracks in the New Hope Community.

Highway patrol said 47-year-old Dennis C. Skaff of Jacksonville, Florida attempted to cross the railroad tracks when he collided with the train at approximately 5:30 Saturday morning. Authorities say the guard rails were down when he attempted to cross.

"The train was blowing more than he usually blows. He was really laying on the horn," Learline Eaddy said. She lives along the tracks and said she heard a bang and saw the totaled car down the road from her home.

Corporal Paul Brothers of Highway Patrol said Skaff was headed west bound on North Old Georgetown Road in a 2001 Chevrolet Pick-up truck. The Amtrak train was traveling south and carried the car more than 200 feet from the point of impact.

Friends of Skaff's say he was an avid hunter and was on his way to go dog hunting that morning.

"He was just a real good fella, I mean, just a real good fella," Ricky Antwine said. He met Skaff through their hunting club.

"Words can't describe, you know. It's just sad."

The Florence County Coroner said Skaff was pronounced dead at the scene. Based on video taken from the Amtrak train, he suspects no foul play and is ruling the death an accident.

The Coroner's office will attempt to draw blood for testing. No autopsy will be performed.

Saturday's train accident is the second to occur in the area in two weeks. A 20-year-old-man from Timmonsville was hit by an Amtrak train late September as he tried to cross a double train track on foot.

The scenes of both accidents are less than three miles apart.

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