One person was killed and six others were injured following a Virginia train crash in which an Amtrak train that had been chartered by Republican lawmakers headed to an annual retreat struck a garbage truck. Area residents familiar with that railroad crossing have suggested that malfunctioning railroad safety equipment may have been a factor.
Train Crash on Way to GOP Retreat
On January 31, 2018, an Amtrak train was traveling through Crozet, VA. Republican lawmakers had chartered the train to take them from Washington D.C. to The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV, where they were scheduled to hold their annual three-day policy retreat. The train reportedly held more than half of the Republican members of the House and Senate, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, along with many of their spouses.
At approximately 11:20 a.m., the train crashed into a garbage truck that was directly in its path, knocking it onto its side. The force of the impact was so severe that the trailer of the truck was separated from its cab and garbage flew in all directions around the vehicle.
One Dead, Six Injured
One employee of the trash company, Time Disposal, was killed in the collision. He was identified by local authorities as Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County, VA. The driver of the truck is reportedly alive but in serious condition.
In addition to the garbage truck driver, five other people were injured in the incident: another garbage truck passenger, two members of the train’s crew, and two of the train’s passengers, including Rep. Jason Lewis of Minnesota, who was reportedly treated for a potential concussion. The remaining passengers on the train were transported by bus to their retreat.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the cause of the train accident.
Was Safety Equipment Malfunctioning?
According to the Associated Press, multiple area residents who were familiar with the railroad crossing where the train crash occurred claimed that the safety arms at the crossing were apparently malfunctioning.
The morning before the incident, one driver found the safety arms down and the signal light flashing even though no train was approaching from either direction. He ultimately took a different route, assuming either that there was a malfunction or that workers were testing the signal crossing.
Another driver also reported a similar experience, in which the light was flashing and the safety arms were down even though no train was approaching. She also noted that the safety arms started engaging in a “weird up-and-down thing,” in which they started to go up, then came back down again, despite the absence of a passing train.
Additionally, the owner of the property where the garbage truck landed told the Associated Press that the safety arms frequently malfunctioned in a similar manner. He also claimed that “A guy was up here just yesterday or the day before taking a look at them.”
At a news conference on the night of the crash, an NTSB spokesperson said that signal experts would be investigating the safety of the railroad crossing.