Train Carrying GOP Lawmakers Strikes Trash Truck; 1 Killed

"It seems to have been just a horrible, horrible accident," said Sen. Jeff Flake, who rushed to help after the crash

A train carrying about 100 Republican members of Congress to a strategy retreat in the countryside slammed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia on Wednesday, killing one person in the vehicle and sending several lawmaker-doctors rushing to help the injured. At least one other person in the truck was seriously injured.

No serious injuries were reported aboard the chartered Amtrak train, which set out from the nation's capital with lawmakers, family members and staff for the luxury Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The University of Virginia Health System tweeted that 1 patient was still in critical condition Wednesday afternoon. There was one patient "in good condition," 3 still being evaluated and one that had been discharged.

The collision happened 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.

Some members of the congressional delegation rushed to the warped, overturned truck after the train stopped near Charlottesville, Virginia, including at least two who did the same at last year's shooting at a congressional baseball practice that left Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., severely wounded: Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup.

Flake said on CNN he helped secure a very badly injured person onto a stretcher and saw another person who was dead: "They worked on him for quite a while but they could not revive him."

He said on MSNBC that a third person, who appeared to be the truck's driver, was able to walk away from the wreck.

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.

The Albemarle County Police Department identified the man killed as Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County.

Dunn said another man in the truck was critically injured and a third was seriously hurt.

Other doctor-lawmakers who assisted included Reps. Michael Burgess of Texas, Phil Roe of Tennessee, Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Roger Marshall of Kansas, according to those aboard.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was on the train and was unhurt, aides said.

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and his wife, both doctors, were among those who came to the rescue. He said he helped a man from the truck who was badly injured.

"My role was quite simple: I picked up his feet so the blood in his feet would go to his heart and his brain," Cassidy said.

"It seems to have been just a horrible, horrible accident," Flake said, adding that, "with Brad Wenstrup there, it was all too reminiscent of the Scalise incident."

Scalise was not on Wednesday's Amtrak train; he was one of many Republican members of Congress who tweeted or called into cable news channels to say they weren't hurt. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., was on the train with his wife when "there was a sudden impact, a loud noise and everyone was jolted," he said on MSNBC.

"My wife who was in front of me, her cellphone went flying," he continued. "It was just uncomfortable for a few minutes and as we started realizing that everyone was okay I think people started feeling a little better."

Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina said he was standing at the train's refreshment stand, waiting to be served a soft drink, when he felt "an enormous slam. ... It was a huge jolt. We all hung on to whatever we had."

He said he looked out the window and saw a big pile of garbage, and it appeared the train had pushed the truck for a few hundred yards.

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 and would spend several days at the site, spokesman Earl Weener said Wednesday night.

Benny Layne, on whose property the truck landed, said the crossing arms had been known to malfunction often, sometimes not working when a train was approaching, sometimes coming down for no reason. Sometimes, he said, they stayed down for hours.

"A guy was up here just yesterday or the day before taking a look at them," he said.

Carrie Brown, human resources manager at Buckingham Branch Railroad, which leases the stretch of track and is responsible for maintenance, said she was unaware of any problems with equipment at the crossing.

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 possible concussion. Others aboard the train reported bumps, bruises and sore joints.

The GOP 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.

Later Wednesday, Pence told Republicans at the party retreat that he knows "it's been a harrowing day for all of you." Pence, a former House member, said he has fond memories of the retreat and the train rides back and forth. "Just know our hearts are with you," Pence said.

Pence was the featured speaker Wednesday night at the GOP retreat. Trump was to address lawmakers Thursday.

A person died in a separate crash related to a congressional retreat to West Virginia last year. The driver of an SUV was killed in a chain-reaction crash on Jan. 25, 2017, as police blocked traffic in Maryland to clear the way for a motorcade of buses.

Congressional Democratic leaders tweeted their support after Wednesday's crash.

"Awful to hear of my Republican colleagues' train accident. We're praying for the safety of everyone on the train and in the truck," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

"Praying that all are well both on the train and off," Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

Asher Klein of NBC and Alan Fram and Heidi Brown of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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