FoxNews.com - (1/31/18)
A train carrying members of Congress to a Republican retreat in West Virginia slammed into a dump truck on Wednesday, throwing lawmakers from their seats and leaving at least one person dead, officials said.
Minor injuries were reported by those on board. The White House confirmed in a statement that there was one "fatality" and one serious injury; lawmakers said this involved those in the truck, which may have been stuck on the tracks when it was hit.
"It was a very high-speed collision," Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who was on board, told Fox News. "There was no braking that was felt. We hit an immediate impact and went from 70 to zero very quickly."
There were mixed reports over whether the train actually derailed, but sources said the front engine ended up with wheels off the tracks. Lawmakers on the train quickly flooded social media with images of the wrecked truck, as well as damage to the crumpled front of the train.
"There is one confirmed fatality and one serious injury. There are no serious injuries among members of Congress or their staff," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "Senior Administration officials are in regular contact with Amtrak and state and local authorities. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident."
The extent of injuries on board was unclear but largely described as minor. Amtrak said there were no reported injuries to passengers or crew members, though lawmakers gave a conflicting account.
Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., told Fox News he had a “little bit of a whiplash” and “maybe a tiny bit of a concussion.”
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, while saying some members needed medical attention, told Fox News the fatality involved an individual in the truck. Denham confirmed this, and said others in the truck were airlifted out.
Amtrak released a brief statement saying the train "came into contact" with the vehicle. "Local law enforcement is investigating the incident and crews are inspecting the equipment for damage," Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said in a statement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was on the train but is fine, Fox News is told. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Wis., was not on the train.
The accident took place in Crozet, Va., near Charlottesville, Va. Members were on a special chartered Amtrak train to the Greenbrier resort, where Vice President Pence was set to speak Wednesday night, with a planned appearance from President Trump on Thursday.
The White House said Trump is "aware" of the accident, which comes one day after his State of the Union address. The retreat is where the party traditionally gathers to discuss their agenda and goals for the coming year.
The train will now return to Charlottesville, and members will take a bus to West Virginia.
While injuries on the train were described as minor, Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., tweeted that he was helping the injured immediately after the crash.
"We are on our way to our annual GOP retreat, the train carrying members and spouses hit something. Laina and I are ok, I am helping those that are injured, I will have Laina keep you updated as I know more," he tweeted.
A Politico reporter, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and others posted photos of the wreckage of the truck, where the most serious injuries were reported.
In a phone interview from the train, North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, described several helicopters in the air, saying there is also “lots of armed security” working to determine it was an accident and “there was no nefarious behavior.”
“We don't think that's the case,” he told Fox News.
The accident is the latest tragedy to affect congressional Republicans, who were targeted in a shooting last summer at a baseball practice in northern Virginia. The lawmaker most seriously injured in that attack, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., was not on the train Wednesday.