GOP Lawmakers Put Medical Skills To Use In West Virginia Train Crash

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a train crash involving a garbage truck in Crozet, Va., on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. An Amtrak passenger train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck south of Charlottesville, Va. No lawmakers were believed injured, but it at least one person in the truck was said to be seriously injured. (Allison Wrabel/ The Daily Progress via AP)

PARKERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney was leaning back in his seat, relaxing, on the train carrying him and other Republican lawmakers from the nation’s capital to The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

He said he might have even dozed off for a bit before he heard a “big bang.”

“The train was traveling full speed at the time, Mooney said. “I immediately started worrying the train was going to derail and tip over.”

Moments later, “I looked out the window, and I saw trash all over the road,” said Mooney, R-W.Va. It was debris from the truck the train struck on the tracks near Charlottesville, Va.

It was a few minutes before passengers found out what happened, said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, who was riding to the GOP retreat with his wife, LeeAnn.

“We were just riding along, and all of a sudden heard a loud crash,” said Johnson, a Marietta resident. “The train lurched forward and came to an abrupt stop.”

Mooney said some passengers were up and walking around when the crash happened.

“People got thrown and knocked to the ground,” he said.

A few people on the train may have suffered concussions, including at least one member of Congress, Mooney said.

“There’s a lot of ice packs going around,” said Mooney, who banged his knee but said it was no more serious than running it into a table.

Multiple lawmakers who are also physicians were pressed into service, Mooney said. He said one of those doctors, Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana, informed him that one occupant of the garbage truck had died and another was seriously injured.

Johnson learned about the fatality from media reports.

“Everybody’s pretty somber,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the folks that were injured in the truck, the family and friends of the one that was killed.”

Also riding the train with his wife was Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“Jane and I were on the train this morning traveling to the House and Senate Republican Member retreat. We are both fine,” Portman said in an emailed statement. “We are keeping those who were injured in our prayers and are grateful for the first responders who quickly arrived on the scene.”

Johnson and Mooney said the train was decoupled from the engine and returned to Charlottesville, where attendees were taken by bus to the retreat at the Greenbrier, the resort owned by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.

Neither Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., nor Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., were on the train, spokesmen for their offices said.

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., flew back to Charleston on Wednesday morning to speak at the West Virginia Coal Symposium, so he was not on the train either.

“As we move forward with scheduled events, our hearts are heavy and our thoughts and prayers remain with those affected,” he said in an emailed statement.