SHARE
Advertisement

By Amanda Becker
CROZET, Va. (Reuters)

An Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia slammed into a garbage truck on Wednesday at a rural Virginia road crossing, killing one person on the truck, authorities said

No serious injuries were reported among the lawmakers or their staff on the train, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. There was one death and one serious injury among those on the truck, it added.

 

First responders work at the scene where an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia
Emergency first responders work at the scene of the crash where an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia, U.S. January 31, 2018. Justin Ide/Crozet Volunteer Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

 

Amtrak said two crew members and three train passengers were hospitalized with minor injuries after the crash in Crozet, Virginia. One of those, Representative Jason Lewis of Minnesota, was examined for a possible concussion.

 

One of the injured is carried across train tracks to an ambulance after a train carrying members of Congress collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia
Emergency first responders and passengers from an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia carry one of the injured across train tracks to an ambulance after the train collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia, U.S. January 31, 2018. Justin Ide/Crozet Volunteer Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

 

“I’m fine compared to, tragically, the truck drivers, and thankful for the prompt action of our doctors and first responders. My thoughts are with the family of the driver who passed away,” Lewis told Reuters.

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. Congressman Steve King/via REUTERS

 

The train was taking lawmakers to an annual retreat being held this year in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, just west of the Virginia state line. Amtrak said the collision occurred at 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, a tiny town between the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, and White Sulphur Springs.

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture obtained from social media. Congressman Greg Walden/via REUTERS

 

U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor, said he and other lawmakers who are physicians tended to the injured until emergency personnel arrived.

The truck was on the tracks at a crossing when the crash occurred, Amtrak said. Video from the scene showed the battered truck afterward, with trash strewn around it.

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Congressman Mark Walker/via REUTERS

 

“We were going along the Virginia countryside at pretty good speed,” Senator Jeff Flake said in comments released by his office. “All of a sudden, we felt an impact and obviously heard a pretty loud noise. Most of us were thrown a bit in our seats and those of us who were standing were really thrown.”

 

 

Spouses and children of some lawmakers were aboard, lawmakers said. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan was on the train, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not, lawmakers said.

 

‘GONE TERRIBLY WRONG’

“It was clear upon impact that something had gone terribly wrong and I am very grateful that the train was able to stop without severely derailing,” U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin said in a statement.

 

U.S. Senator Flake talks with reporters after Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a garbage truck in Charlottesville, Virginia
REFILE – CORRECTING DATELINE U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) talks with reporters after an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck in Charlottesvile, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Eze Amos

 

Immediately after the crash, a law enforcement team surrounded the train with weapons drawn and searched the area for possible attackers as first responders treated the injured, said a local emergency worker, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 

A U.S. Capitol Police officer keeps watch after Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of Congress collided with a garbage truck in Charlottesville, Virginia
U.S. Capitol Police officer keeps watch after an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Eze Amos

 

“They surrounded the train on both sides and set up a perimeter with their automatic weapons pointing out and then searched the woods around the train,” the worker said. “At least five members of Congress helped firefighters and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) treat the three injured people who had been in the truck.”

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Congressman Mark Walker/via REUTERS

 

The Republican retreat, an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss legislation and politics in the run-up to November’s congressional elections, was scheduled to run until midday Friday. President Donald Trump was due to attend on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence went as scheduled on Wednesday.

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Congressman Mark Walker/via REUTERS

 

Trump told reporters at the White House he had spoken to Ryan and others, and that the accident had been “a pretty rough hit.”

“We don’t have full understanding yet as to what happened,” Trump said.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate.

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from social media video. Congressman Mark Walker/via REUTERS

 

The Virginia Department of Transportation said the intersection where the crash occurred had flashing signals and gates to prevent motorists from getting on the tracks when trains were approaching.

It was the second tragedy to hit congressional Republicans in the past year.

 

First responders work at the scene where train carrying Republican members of Congress collided with garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia
Emergency first responders work at the scene of the crash where an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia, U.S. January 31, 2018. Justin Ide/Crozet Volunteer Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

 

Last June, a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers were practicing for an annual charity game against Democratic colleagues. Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was severely wounded but has recovered and returned to work. He was not on the train.

 

 

While it was not immediately clear who was at fault in the Virginia collision, Amtrak’s safety record has come under scrutiny after a series of recent incidents including a derailment of a passenger train south of Seattle in December that killed three. In that crash, an engineer misread a signal and failed to slow the train, investigators said.

 

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson, Richard Cowan, Ian Simpson, Katanga Johnson, Makini Brice, Susan Cornwell, Roberta Rampton and Mohammad Zargham; Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Will Dunham)

 

View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet
View of the scene following the accident when a train traveling from Washington to West Virginia carrying Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives collided with a garbage truck, in Crozet, Virginia, U.S., January 31, 2018, in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. Congressman Steve King/via REUTERS