U.S. News

Amtrak train braked before end of fatal Virginia crash: safety agency

Slideshow ( 2 images )

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A chartered Amtrak train carrying U.S. Republican lawmakers was traveling at 61 miles per hour (98 kilometers per hour) when the engineer applied the brakes in a crash that struck a truck on the tracks in Crozet, Virginia, investigators said on Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a briefing that the maximum speed limit at the grade crossing was 60 miles per hour and that the engineer in Wednesday’s crash applied the brakes 20 seconds before the train came to rest, according to preliminary information downloaded from one of the train’s event data recorders. The NTSB is still investigating whether the train braked prior to impact.

A passenger on the garbage truck, 28-year-old Christopher Foley, was killed and two others on the truck were injured, according to police. The NTSB has not been able to interview the 30-year-old driver of the truck.

No lawmakers were seriously injured but a Minnesota representative, Jason Lewis, was taken to a hospital as a precaution and released.

The train had hundreds of passengers onboard at the time of the accident, NTSB board member Earl Weener said.

The NTSB has not yet downloaded the forward locomotive video camera or event data recorder. The board said that when it reviews the video data it should be able to determine if the signals at the crossing were working or if the truck was moving.

The train was taking lawmakers to the annual retreat in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, just west of the Virginia state line. Amtrak said the collision occurred at 11:18 a.m. in Crozet, a tiny town between the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, and White Sulphur Springs.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said the intersection where the crash occurred had flashing signals and gates to prevent motorists from getting on the tracks as trains approach.

(This story corrects headline and first two paragraphs to reflect that NTSB is still investigating whether the train started braking before hitting the truck, instead of saying that the train braked before the crash.)

Reporting by David Shepardson