Political News

One killed as train carrying GOP members of Congress hits truck

Posted January 31, 2018 11:30 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:41 p.m. EDT

— A train carrying dozens of Republican members of Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, to their legislative retreat in West Virginia hit a truck Wednesday, leaving at least one person dead.

The driver of the truck was killed, President Donald Trump said Wednesday afternoon. Five patients were transported to UVA Medical Center, with one in critical condition, the hospital tweeted. Amtrak said three passengers and two crew members were hospitalized with "minor injuries."

More than half of the GOP portion of North Carolina's congressional delegation was on the train. Sen. Thom Tillis and Reps. Mark Walker, David Rouzer, Richard Hudson, Robert Pittenger, Virginia Foxx, Patrick McHenry and Ted Budd all said they were unhurt.

Pittenger said he was standing in a car during the crash and is shaken but OK.

"It was a big jar, a huge slam," he said in a phone interview with WRAL News. "I was standing up to get a soft drink, and we all felt it."

An aide confirmed Ryan was fine, and multiple sources said that all members of Congress on the train and their families were OK, with the exception of a few minor injuries.

"Today's incident was a terrible tragedy," Ryan tweeted later. "We are grateful for the first responders who rushed to the scene and we pray for the victims and their families. May they all be in our thoughts right now."

Congressman Jason Lewis of Minnesota was taken to the hospital for a potential concussion.

"I'm fine compared to tragically the truck driver and thankful for our first responders," Lewis said in a statement.

Three congressmen who are doctors tended to the injured before first responders reached the scene. Congressman Roger Marshall of Kansas performed CPR on the truck driver and provided other medical assistance, according to his office.

Republican members of Congress were on the chartered Amtrak train headed to a retreat at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., starting Wednesday and ending Friday.

The train left from Union Station in Washington early Wednesday, and the crash occurred at about 11:20 a.m. The crossing in Crozet where the crash occurred has warning lights and bells and barrier arms, but it appears the trash truck got stuck on the railroad track there.

Nearby residents report problems with the signals, however, saying the crossing arms seemed to malfunction in the past. One of the congressmen on the train said it appeared the safety devices were working Wednesday morning.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the crossing, which is about 15 miles west of Charlottesville, Va., sees occasional freight traffic – but passenger trains are rare.

"We were moving at a rapid pace, and it didn't seem there was any time for the train to slow down at all. I didn't feel any slowing before the impact," said U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona.

New York Congressman John Faso said he was able to see the truck that hit the train and that he was told that injuries were expected from people in the truck, not the train.

"There was (what) looks like a tractor-trailer carrying trash that was hit by the train," Faso, who said he was in the third car of the train, told CNN.

One GOP source said members "hit the deck."

Other Republican members of Congress tweeted that they were OK in the moments after the crash.

"I am safe and was not on board the train in West Virginia. Thank you to those who have reached out and please pray for the safety of all involved," New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik tweeted.

"Our train heading to the GOP Retreat in West Virginia has been involved in an accident. I am safe but first responders are treating minor injuries on the train & treating the truck drivers. Praying....," Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma tweeted.

"We're fine, but our train hit a garbage truck. Members with medical training are assisting the drivers of the truck," Oregon Congressman Greg Walden tweeted.

According to a tweet from its official account, the National Transportation Safety Board says it "is launching a Go-Team to the scene of the Amtrak accident in VA. More information will be released as it becomes available."

The U.S. Capitol Police also was on the scene to work with local law enforcement agencies in response to the crash.

After the crash, the congressmen returned to Charlottesville, where they boarded chartered buses to caravan to the retreat.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was not on the train, was scheduled to speak at the retreat later Wednesday, and President Donald Trump was scheduled to address the event Thursday.