Louisa County Man Dead in Train Crash in Crozet, No Foul Play Suspected
Federal investigators are working to determine what went wrong to cause an Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to crash into a trash truck in western Albemarle County and kill a Louisa County man.
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Federal investigators are working to determine what caused an Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers to crash into a trash truck in western Albemarle County and kill a Louisa County man.
One of the two passengers of the trash truck, Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County, died from injuries sustained from the crash. The other passenger was airlifted to the University of Virginia Medical Center with critical injuries, while the driver of the truck was taken by ground in serious condition. Amtrak is reporting that two crew members and two passengers of the train were transported to UVA with minor injuries.
The UVA Health System announced around 4:30 p.m. that a total of six patients were transported to the UVA Medical Center from the train accident. One patient is in critical condition, four patients are being evaluated, and one patient has been discharged.
First responders were dispatched to the train crossing on Lanetown Road around 11:18 a.m. Wednesday, January 31. The train’s engine slammed into a Time Disposal garbage truck.
The chartered train was carrying GOP legislators, staff, and security from Washington D.C., to an annual retreat at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said they were moving at a pretty good speed when they felt the impact. He described it as everyone being thrown around the train car, then he and other members jumped into action to help the injured.
"Brad Wenstrup [of Ohio] and Dr. [Bill Cassidy of Louisiana] also were off. They were working on the man, the deceased. CPR was performed for a long time, but it didn't work. And then the other person was severely injured. It looked as if they were on the back of the truck and the driver survived and was able to walk to the ambulance," Flake said.
The senator said he helped the seriously injured person for about 20 minutes before helping them to an ambulance.
Kerri Heilman's home backs up to the train tracks, and she says she was home trying to get her dogs back inside when the collision happened.
“I heard the train beeping and coming, but typically, you know it’s just a couple of horns, and this was just constant. Like the horns were just blaring blaring blaring. And so I got my dogs in, and then I heard an enormous crash, and when I looked out the window I saw the train coming to a stop, and it had definitely hit something,” she said.
A different neighbor told NBC29 that a tarp-covered body was in her yard hours after the crash.
Once the train left the accident scene in Crozet, it came back to the Amtrak station in Charlottesville so the uninjured passengers could board buses to go on to West Virginia.
Dozens of people along with Charlottesville and Virginia State Police watched from West Main Street as passengers got off that train. Bomb-sniffing dogs could be seen checking the buses before people got on.
Now at their retreat at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, GOP Congress members are thanking their fellows for their professionalism, saying they did everything they could to help the injured.
"Everyone knew what they should be doing and took a role trying to save a life, from CPR, to controlling the bleeding and maintaining airways," Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio said.
Senate Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin calls the response to the accident superb: “It certainly tests our mettle and our preparedness, but again this is what the training is all about. This is what the interagency cooperation is all about,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board held a news conference Wednesday night ruling out foul play and saying it will have several investigative teams looking at a variety of factors.
"We have a signals expert and we will be looking at the safety of the grade crossings, that would include lights, arms, signals, crossbucks and so forth," Earl Weener of NTSB said."Our mission is to not only understand what happened but why it happened and make recommendations to prevent it from happening it again."
Another media briefing by the NTSB is expected to take place sometime Thursday afternoon.
Federal records show a previous accident occurred at the Lanetown Road crossing in 1999. In that case, a CSX freight train hit a truck that was stuck between the tracks. No one was injured in that incident.
The crossing does have a signal with flashing lights and arms to block the crossing. Those were down across the road Wednesday, at least after the crash.
Madeline Curott of the Albemarle County Police Department says the department has not received any calls about the crossing arms at Orchard Drive and Lanetown Road in recent weeks or months.
Two members of Congress who represent parts of central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley - 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett and 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte - were not on the train. Garrett was at his office in Washington, D.C. when the collision happened, while Goodlatte opted to drive separately to the GOP retreat. Both representatives issued statements about the crash, offering up prayers for those involved.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Release from Albemarle County Police Department:
At 11:17 Wednesday morning, Albemarle County Police Officers were dispatched to the call of a fast train versus a truck on Lanetown and Marymart Farm Roads. When crews arrived, they discovered that an Amtrak train, originating from Washington, D.C., had come in contact with a trash truck on the train tracks.
One of the two passengers of the trash truck, Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County, died from injuries sustained from the crash.
The other passenger was airlifted to the University of Virginia Medical Center with critical injuries, while the driver of the truck was taken by ground in serious condition. Amtrak is reporting that two crew members and two passengers of the train were transported to UVa with minor injuries.
The ACPD, Albemarle County Fire/Rescue and numerous other state and local agencies worked quickly to break down the size and scope of the scene.
The ACPD Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash and working with the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigation.
The NTSB briefed media Wednesday evening at the ACPD and said that they will be on scene for several days going over the crash site, which will be followed by an investigation lasting several months at its headquarters.
Another media briefing by the NTSB is expected to take place sometime Thursday afternoon.
Release from Amtrak:
Amtrak is working with the NTSB, local law enforcement and other relevant agencies to investigate today’s incident in Crozet, Virginia. Our primary concern is for those impacted by this event. It is premature to offer specific comment about this incident, however, it is clear that accidents at rail crossings nationwide are far too common.
This is an opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of exercising caution around railroad rights-of-way. Amtrak continues to work closely with Operation Lifesaver to communicate the dangers of grade crossings. Each year, about 2,000 people are killed or injured in grade crossing and trespassing incidents nationwide.
Over the coming days we will continue to work with the NTSB, law enforcement, our industry partners, Operation Lifesaver and other stakeholders to reduce the frequency of these preventable accidents.
For rail grade crossing tips, visit Operation Lifesaver’s website at www.oil.org.
Release from National Transportation Safety Board:
The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a full go-team to investigate today’s grade-crossing accident involving an Amtrak passenger train and a truck near Crozet, VA.
Senior highway safety investigator Pete Kotowski has been designated as the investigator-in-charge and will lead a multi-disciplinary team with expertise in human performance, highway factors, survival factors, vehicle factors, truck operations, train operations and grade crossing signals. The NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Investigations and the Office of Research and Engineering are also sending investigators.
NTSB Member Earl Weener is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesman on-scene.
Announcements about media briefings and other activities related to this investigation will be made on the NTSB’s media relations Twitter feed @NTSB_Newsroom.
01/31/2018 Statement from Congressman Tom Garrett:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan 31, 2018)?Congressman Tom Garrett (R-VA) issued the following statement upon learning of today’s train collision in Crozet, Virginia from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.:
"My colleagues and my friends were on the train, and it is very likely that or more Fifth District residents were injured during today’s collision. So I would ask that all take a moment today to think about everyone on the train, and keep them in your hearts, thoughts and prayers”
“Many of my colleagues were en route to the GOP Retreat when the train carrying them was involved in a collision in Albemarle County."
"While we monitor the situation from our office in Washington, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and our first responders and law enforcement professionals who, as always, are doing their jobs and working to save lives."
NOTE: Congressman Garrett was not on the train at the time of the collision. He learned of the incident from his offices in Washington, D.C.