Train carrying GOP lawmakers to policy retreat at The Greenbrier hits truck
By ALAN FRAM and ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — A chartered train carrying dozens of GOP lawmakers to a Republican policy retreat in West Virginia struck a garbage truck in a rural Virginia town Wednesday. The White House said one person was killed, and local officials said others were injured.
Lawmakers said the fatality appeared to be someone in the truck. One lawmaker aboard the train, Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, said the vehicle had been ripped in half. He said he saw a person wrapped in a tarp and said emergency workers appeared to be “putting a body away.”
Cole said he felt “a tremendous jolt” when the accident occurred, nearly two hours after the train left Washington headed to the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Amtrak spokeswoman Beth Toll said two crew members and two passengers were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries after the incident, which happened about 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, Virginia, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Charlottesville.
Alex Prevost, a University of Virginia health system spokesman, said it had received three patients and two more were on the way. He could not confirm a fatality.
Albemarle County police spokeswoman Madeline Curott also would not confirm a fatality but said three people on the truck were seriously injured.
Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis’ staff members tweeted that the first-term congressman was among those taken to the hospital. The tweet from Lewis’ account said he was being checked for a concussion because of the impact.
The policy retreat, an annual event, is 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.
Cole said the train stopped quickly after impact. He 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.
Another lawmaker, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was conducting a live interview with a local radio station when the accident occurred.
“Oh, Jesus. Sorry about that; we hit a bump here,” he told AM 1100 The Flag, a station in Fargo, North Dakota. Later, he described the truck’s wreckage and said, “Valuable lesson, people. Do not challenge a train at a crossing.”
Authorities have not detailed the sequence of events.
Other doctor-lawmakers who helped 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.
Cassidy later tweeted that there were three people on the truck and “one is dead.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was on the train and was unhurt, aides said.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump was briefed on the accident.
“There is one confirmed fatality and one serious injury,” but no injuries to lawmakers or their staffs, she said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident,” Sanders said.
Rep. James Comer of Kentucky said about 100 Republican lawmakers were on the train when the crash occurred, which 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. “It was a garbage truck that was apparently, I would assume, trying to cross the tracks.”
Comer said Capitol Police quickly jumped off the train, but came back and asked for any doctors to help. Comer said lawmakers performed CPR on one person.
A GOP aide said the train seemed partially derailed.
AP reporter Adam Beam in Frankfort, Kentucky, contributed.