WASHINGTON — A chartered train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck on the tracks south of Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday morning, killing one person and injuring several others.
None of the Congress members or their staff had serious injuries from the late-morning wreck in Crozet, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The person who was killed was a passenger inside the truck; Albemarle County police have identified him as 28-year-old Christopher Foley of Louisa County. Another truck passenger was airlifted to the hospital with critical injuries, and the driver was taken by ground in serious condition, county police said.
A few Amtrak crew members and passengers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said. Officials with the University of Virginia health system said that six injured people had been transported to its medical center, including one who was in critical condition. Four others were being evaluated and one had been released.
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and would spend several days at the site, spokesman Earl Weener said Wednesday night. That means checking the safety of the crossing and recovering the train’s data recorders.
When asked if the crash could have been a calculated move on GOP lawmakers, Weener said the NTSB was treating it as an accident and that any findings that would suggest otherwise would be handled by the proper authorities.
Rep. Jason Lewis’ staff said that the Minnesota congressman was taken to the hospital where he was found to have suffered a concussion. He was later released and continued on to the retreat.
And Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee was also injured. The Republican said in a phone call from the scene, where he was being treated for his injuries, that he was on his way to the restroom when the crash occurred. He said he was thrown around upon impact and suffered neck, back and foot injuries.
Fleischmann said he was in a “bit of shock” and significant pain.
“We don’t have a full understanding yet as to what happened. But it was a train hitting a truck going at a pretty — pretty good speed,” President Donald Trump said in remarks at the Oval Office.
He spoke briefly with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was on the train but was not among the injured.
“They’re doing pretty good,” Trump said of the lawmakers. “The train accident was a tough one.”
Many on the train were concerned about the people in the truck that was badly hit, and many went out to help, especially those with medical training.
“They went out to treat the gentleman from the truck. Unfortunately, one of those gentleman has passed away and they had to medevac the other gentleman out of this area because he was in such … such shape they had to get him to a hospital right away,” Rep. Don Donovan of New York told ABC News.
Photos shared on Twitter from the scene also show what appeared to be a mangled trash truck and trash littering the sides of the train tracks.
“Helped the two people in the garbage truck,” tweeted Rep. Roger Marshall, a doctor. “They are injured badly.”
The Kansas Republican was among the GOP members of Congress headed to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs for a three-day issues retreat, featuring appearances by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole said several GOP lawmakers who are doctors got off the train to assist, including Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, who was also at last June’s shooting of Republicans at a baseball practice in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, and treated some of the victims.
Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., tweeted: “The train carrying GOP members to our retreat had a collision, but Rebecca and I are both OK. Security and doctors on board are helping secure the scene and treat injuries.”
Other doctor-lawmakers who helped included Reps. Michael Burgess, R-Texas; Phil Roe, R-Tenn.; and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
Donovan described the sudden stop that jolted the passengers.
“We certainly knew we hit something. We didn’t know what it was; the train hadn’t slowed down at all and it stopped at an amazingly quick time frame, so I think that’s why we all got jolted, not from the hit but from the train stopping so quickly,” he told ABC News.
Reporters, members of the lawmakers’ staffs, Capitol police and family members were among those on board.
By Wednesday afternoon, lawmakers had resumed their trip to the retreat by bus, The Associated Press reported.
Neither of Northern Virginia’s Republican Congress members, Barbara Comstock nor Rob Wittman, were on the train. Comstock said in a tweet that she was driving to West Virginia at the time of the wreck.
And Maryland’s lone Republican member of Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, said he too was not on board. “Praying for my colleagues and all involved in the train accident in West Virginia today,” he tweeted.
WTOP’s Max Smith, Teta Alim and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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