A chartered train carrying Republican lawmakers to a retreat collided with a garbage truck in Virginia on Wednesday morning, leaving at least one person dead.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the fatality, and said one person was seriously injured.
No members of Congress or their staff were injured, she said in a statement.
Authorities did not immediately release the victim’s identity, but President Donald Trump said Wednesday afternoon that the driver of the truck had been killed. A spokesperson for the Congressional Institute, which sponsors the retreat, said the person who died and the person who was critically injured were both in the truck.
One dead in crash between GOP train and trash truck
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The train was carrying House and Senate Republicans to the retreat in West Virginia when the crash occurred.
“We were on our way to West Virginia, and it was a sudden impact, a loud noise and everyone was jolted,” Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida said on MSNBC.
Rep. Jason Lewis of Minnesota was taken to an area hospital for a reported concussion, according to a senior leadership source on the train.
A statement from Amtrak said the crash happened at 11:20 a.m. in Crozet, Virginia.
“Two Amtrak crew members and two passengers were transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. Local law enforcement is investigating the incident,” the statement said.
Train taking GOP lawmakers to retreat hits truck
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The University of Virginia Health System said Wednesday afternoon that it had received a total of six patients — one in critical condition — to UVA Medical Center from the crash. Four of the patients were being evaluated and one had been discharged, the health system said in a statement.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a Go-Team of investigators to the scene.
At around 1:15 p.m., the train had left Crozet and was heading back to a station in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake described feeling a “big impact” during the crash and then making his way to help one of the injured. He had been traveling with his wife and 18-year-old son in one of the front cars of the train.
“I knew there were going to be bad injuries, so I worked my way back thinking they might need people to help carry people to ambulances, and they did,” he said.
Flake said he saw there was one fatality, “who they worked on for quite a while while I was there and we were tending to the other injured person.”
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup, both physicians, were among others who helped the injured, Flake said.
Flake said the front car of the train derailed during the crash and that the impact “smashed the truck pretty badly.”
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who was traveling with his wife, described the accident scene as “a mess,” with trash strewn up to 80 yards away.
“The truck is completely smashed,” Sessions told MSNBC.
The crossing where the crash occurred was equipped with flashing lights as well as gates on both sides of the track, sources told NBC News.
Texas Rep. Michael Burgess said on MSNBC shortly after that “both of the crossing arms were down” by the time he had exited the train and it did appear “the lights were functional.”
Several lawmakers tweeted about the incident and said they were uninjured.
PHOTOS: At the scene: Train carrying GOP lawmakers strikes garbage truck
“Our train heading to the GOP Retreat in West Virginia has been involved in an accident,” tweeted Sen. James Lankford, of Oklahoma. “I am safe but first responders are treating minor injuries on the train & treating the truck drivers.”
A post on Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall’s Twitter account said the “train hit a garbage truck, they’re asking for doctors on the trains to help.”
Emergency first responders and passengers from an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of Congress carry one of the injured across train tracks to an ambulance after the train collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia, on Jan. 31. Justin Ide / Crozet Volunteer Fire Department Handout via Reuters
Marshall’s Twitter account later posted that the lawmaker performed CPR “on train conductor, and helped the two people in the garbage truck who are now in the ambulance. They are injured badly.”
Marshall, a licensed obstetrician, later told MSNBC that he first tried to help the deceased victim, but “couldn’t find a pulse, so we started CPR and worked on that person for several, several minutes and just didn’t go real well for that gentlemen we just could never get him resuscitated, I’m afraid.”
He added that at some point he and another lawmaker “decided we needed to focus all of our attention on the other person who at least had a pulse.”
He said the victim had suffered “major head trauma, internal trauma — it’s just too gruesome to even talk about.”
Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a doctor of podiatry, said it felt like the train “went over a boulder.”
He said he rushed off the train and saw one man from the truck who was able to stand and two others on the ground.
He tended to an injured man who had “a lot of blood coming from around his mouth and nose,” he said on MSNBC.
They worked to clear the unconscious man’s airway and make sure his mouth would not fill up with blood, he said. The man was breathing and they were able to get him to an ambulance, he said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was on the train but was not injured, a source told NBC News. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not on the train, a spokesperson said.
Ryan said on Twitter that the incident was “a terrible tragedy.”
The GOP retreat will proceed with an adjusted program, a spokesperson for the Congressional Institute said in the statement.
“The program will now include a moment of prayer for those involved in today’s incident and a security briefing from the Sergeant at Arms and United State Capitol Police,” the statement said.
Trump told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken with Ryan and that “they’re doing pretty good” after the crash, despite enduring a “tremendous jolt” en route to West Virginia.
“It was a pretty rough hit, that’s what they all tell me,” Trump said Wednesday afternoon. The remarks came at the beginning of an Oval Office meeting with American workers who have allegedly benefited from the recently passed GOP tax plan.
Trump promised a “full report” once more details are known. He will travel to West Virginia on Thursday for a previously scheduled address at the GOP retreat.
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted that he was also getting regular updates on the crash.
“Praying for all involved & grateful for the swift action of first responders,” he said.
Pence is scheduled to address the retreat dinner Wednesday evening. As of now, there are no changes to that plan, a White House official said.
This is a breaking story, please check back for updates.