One person was killed and at least five injured when an Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers to an annual party conference in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck in rural Virginia, sending lawmaker-doctors rushing to help the injured — including Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville.
Northeast Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert said in a telephone interview from the scene that most on the train were OK, though perhaps shaken up.
“It’s some bumps and bruises, maybe a concussion or two that people are being watched,” he said.
Officials said later that one person in the garbage truck was killed, and at least two others in the truck were seriously hurt.
Amtrak said no one on the train was seriously hurt, though five people — two crew members and three passengers — were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.
The collision happened about 11:20 a.m. Eastern time in Crozet, Virginia, tearing the truck in two, crumpling the nose of the locomotive and scattering trash alongside the tracks.
Gohmert said passengers on the train felt what he called a huge “jerk” at the moment of impact, but the train did not slow down until after the collision.
“It was such a loud crash,” he said. “Everybody was absolutely jolted.”
Rep. Mike Lee of Utah said a few people on the train were “roughed up.”
“Most of us hit a knee or a head on the seat in front of us, but nothing too serious,” he said.
Immediately after the crash, many members who are doctors tried to leave the train to render assistance to the three men who were on the trash truck.
Security officials on the train discouraged them from getting off the train, said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, but ultimately several exited, including Burgess, Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rep. Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and his wife, who is also a doctor.
Several lawmakers also joined medical personnel in carrying one of the injured passengers to an ambulance. They included Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup, who did almost the same thing last summer after a shooting at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.
Flake said seeing the lawmakers who are doctors tending to the injured reminded him of the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise at a GOP baseball practice last June.
“I thought then I never want to experience a day like this again,” Flake said. “Unfortunately, it came too soon.”
The crash occurred as lawmakers, family and staff were on the way to to the luxury Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Gohmert described the event as a “planning conference” where Republicans in the House and Senate meet to go over legislative priorities.
“Once a year, both the Republicans and the Democrats have a retreat where we all get together somewhere away from Washington, and it’s nice to have families come for a change,” he said. “We have normally two and a half days where we’re plotting our course through the year … If you’re ever going to get relations working better between the House and the Senate, this is where it’s going to start.”
The retreat 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, and Pence still was planning to address them later Wednesday.
— This story includes information from News-Journal wire services and news partners KETK and Tyler Morning Telegraph.