CROZET, Va. — A train carrying dozens of Republican members of Congress to a policy retreat in the countryside slammed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia on Wednesday, killing one person in the truck and sending several lawmaker-doctors rushing to help the injured.
No serious injuries were reported among those on the train, an Amtrak charter that set out from the nation’s capital with lawmakers and staff for the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. At least two people in the truck were reported seriously hurt.
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-4, confirmed in a statement that he was on the train but “is fine.”
The collision took place around 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, about 125 miles southwest of Washington, tearing the truck in two, crumpling the nose of the locomotive and scattering trash alongside the tracks.
Authorities gave no details on the cause of the wreck, which took place at a crossing protected by gates, flashing lights, bells and warning signs. The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate.
A man who lives near the railroad crossing where the crash occurred says the crossing arms have not been working correctly.
Benny Layne said the truck landed on his property Wednesday after the collision.
Layne told The Associated Press that he has recently seen lines of cars stopped at the crossing, with the crossing arms lowered even though no train was approaching.
He said motorists would get out of their cars to help guide other motorists around the malfunctioning arms so they could cross the tracks.
Layne says he has seen the arms stay down for hours. He also says he saw a man examining the crossing arms this week.
CSX Transportation owns the tracks where the crash occurred. Buckingham Branch Railroad leases the tracks and is responsible for maintenance, signaling and traffic dispatching on the line.
A spokeswoman for Buckingham said she was not aware of any problems with equipment at the crossing but referred questions to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.
Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, said he felt “a tremendous jolt” nearly two hours into the trip, and the train stopped quickly.
Florida Rep. Neal Dunn, a former Army surgeon, said he and other lawmakers who are doctors joined other passengers who are nurses or paramedics and jumped out with the basic medical gear they had. They broke into three teams to help the injured people in the truck, he said.
“The first gentleman was somebody who had really, really, really devastating injuries. We did try to resuscitate, but ultimately you had to realize it wasn’t possible,” Dunn said. He said another man in the truck was critically injured and a third was seriously hurt.
Officials gave varying figures on the number hurt. But Amtrak said two crew members and three passengers were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis’ staff tweeted that the first-term congressman was among those taken to the hospital and was being checked for a concussion.
The policy retreat, an annual event, was scheduled to last three days and feature speeches from President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. By early afternoon, lawmakers were boarding buses to resume their trip, and Pence was still planning to address them later Wednesday.
Rep. James Comer of Kentucky said about 100 Republican lawmakers were on the train when the crash made him jump out of his seat.
“I looked out the side of the window and then I could see a truck, just in pieces out the side of the window,” Comer said. He said Capitol police officers quickly jumped off the train but came back and asked for any doctors to help.
Other doctor-lawmakers who assisted included Reps. Michael Burgess, of Texas, Phil Roe of Tennessee, Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, according to those aboard.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was on the train and was unhurt, aides said.