Friends remember Savannah Amtrak engineer killed in crash

Michael Kempf. Source: Facebook
Michael Kempf. Source: Facebook

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Friends of 54-year-old Michael Kempf, one of two Amtrak employees killed when a train crashed and derailed in South Carolina Sunday morning, say he will be remembered as a biker with a big heart.

Mike Fuentes, a service consultant at Savannah Harley-Davidson, said Michael Kempf was the definition of a Harley-Davidson enthusiast. Fuentes said he loved working with frequent-customer Kempf, and he remembers Kempf as the person who was always willing to participate in motorcycle rides to benefit others.

"They live, breathe and eat Harley Davidson, you know?" Fuentes said. "Always willing to help someone if they need help. Always willing to ride no matter what the cause, you know? He was a really good guy. He was always there for the events, especially the benefits and stuff like that, so, yeah, he was a good person. He will be missed by all of us."

Savannah Harley-Davidson staff said Kempf bought first his first Harley-Davidson bike from their store in the early 2000s. Kempf is Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association member, and his brother, Rich, said he traveled to motorcycle shows across the country frequently. Fuentes said Kempf was a fun person to work with, and he already feels the loss in the store.

"He was always in a good mood," Fuentes said. "He was a good guy. I loved working with him. He was a true, good person. He was always down for a ride. Didn't matter where, didn't matter what the weather was, he was really ready to ride."

Curtis Feggins Jr., Kempf's neighbor, also says Kempf was a big-hearted, motorcycle-loving person.

"Every day, we'd check on one another," Feggins Jr. said. "He was a good-hearted person. Anything you asked, if he sees you, he will help you. Nothing he won't do to help you, help anybody else. He was that type of person. He would do anything to help you."

Feggins Jr. last saw Kempf Friday, and initially assumed Kempf was hosting a Super Bowl party at his house Sunday when he saw lots of extra cars parked outside.

"I said, 'Mike must be having a Super Bowl party with all these cars down the street,'" he said. "I said, 'Let me go down here and see what's going on!' I go down there, and I find out he passed. I almost fell to the floor because it was a shock. I had just been down there to his house Friday. It was a shocker to me. Emotional. Real emotional because when he'd come down the street on his motorcycle and my grandkids and them [are] outside or in the yard, he'd stop by and turn the music up, let them disco and dance."

Hearing a motorcycle drive down his street and the driver turn up the music overwhelmed Feggins Jr. Monday.

"It was shocking just to hear that motorcycle go by, and I'm thinking about Mike," he said with tears welling in his eyes. "My wife said, 'Somebody's on Mike's motorcycle,' and I was just shocked about it. It's tragic to me because I was just down to the house."

Feggins Jr. said he can't believe Kempf is gone, but he is relying on his faith to help him work through the loss.

"God works in mysterious ways," he said. "Everybody has a number, and you don't ever know when your number is going to come. Just gotta get life in order."

Feggins Jr. wants to ensure Kempf is remembered as the life-loving, selfless, helpful person he was to so many.

"He was a sweetheart,"Feggins Jr. said. "He was a God-having child. Truth of the matter, Mike was a giving, loving-hearted person. Ain't nothing he wouldn't do for you."

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