Casey Jones, a respected engineer with the Memphis-based Illinois Central Railroad, was a risk taker. His trains were often on-schedule, though his methods to keep that schedule were questionable. A number of citations for various rules infractions were issued to Casey and he totaled suspensions for well over one hundred days, but none of those occurred on his final run.
On April 30, 1900, he was due to drive the southbound passenger service from Memphis to Canton. Working an overtime shift from the previous night, Casey was likely sleep deprived. He departed for his shift over an hour late, but was sure he could make up the time
Approaching Vaughan, Mississippi at high speed, he was unaware that three trains were occupying the station,, including one that had broken down and was stalled directly on his line. He ignored a flagman signalling to him, although Casey may not have seen him, due to the dense morning fog.
Through the fog, Casey spotted the red rear lights of the caboose in front of him. Quickly, he blew his whistle to clear the tracks. Then, he reversed the throttle and slammed the air brakes into emergency stop. Casey’s train plowed into the train stopped on the tracks. Because he stayed aboard to manually reduce the speed of the train, Casey saved the lives of every passenger on the train. Despite the severity of the wreckage, there was just one fatality — Casey Jones.