New details emerge about fatal crash involving GOP train
CROZET, Va. — Witnesses told investigators that a garbage truck struck by a train carrying Republican congressmen through rural Virginia entered the railroad crossing after the safety gates had come down, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report released Wednesday. The report on the Jan. 31 crash said the probable cause of the accident has not yet been determined. But it offered some new details about the crash, which killed a trash collector and injured several other people, including another trash collector and the truck’s driver.
The Amtrak train was carrying dozens of Republican lawmakers to an annual strategy retreat in West Virginia.
“We were going at a pretty good speed and all of sudden we heard, obviously, a loud crash and felt an impact,” Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake said at the time. “Everybody around us got thrown on the train car.”
Inside the train, injuries were not life-threatening. One lawmaker described colleagues prying open doors and jumping off the train, and several lawmakers carried one of the victims from the crash site.
Justin Ide/Crozet Volunteer Fire Dept.
The NTSB report said data taken from a track image camera on the train showed that as the highway-railroad grade crossing came into view, the gates were down and the trash truck was on the crossing.
Preliminary information from the train’s onboard recorder indicates that the train was traveling about 61 mph (98 kph) when the engineer applied emergency braking. The train struck the left rear of the truck, causing the truck to rotate counterclockwise and then collide with a railroad signal bungalow next to the tracks. The speed limit at the crossing is 60 miles per hour.
The two trash collectors were ejected from the truck, the report said. One of them, 28-year-old Christopher Foley, was killed, while the other passenger remains hospitalized. The truck’s driver, Dana Naylor Jr., received minor injuries. The men are employees of Time Disposal LLC, which is based in Ruckersville, Virginia.
The front axle of the lead locomotive on the train derailed, but the locomotive remained upright. Three Amtrak crew members and three train passengers received minor injuries.
Investigator from the NTSB, Albemarle County Police Department and the FBI documented the crash scene and the physical characteristics of the crossing, the train, and the refuse truck. The track and operational characteristics of the crossing signals were also examined, the report said.
Naylor has declined repeated requests to discuss on how the crash happened.
Several people who live near the railroad crossing told The Associated Press that the safety gates, which are designed to come down to warn drivers of approaching trains, were known to frequently malfunction, sometimes staying down for extended periods of time even when no trains were coming.
The NTSB report said investigators “continue to examine issues related to the highway-railroad grade crossing.”
The report said investigators are also coordinating additional passenger and witness interviews and are continuing to gather information related to rail operations, motor carrier operations, and driver and train crew experience. A spokesman for the NTSB said that as of Tuesday, investigators had not yet interviewed Naylor.
“All aspects of the crash remain under investigation while the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes,” the report states.
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