NTSB takes over investigation of Amtrak train collision in Crozet

The cause of the collision is currently unknown, National Transportation Safety Board representative says

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National Transportation Safety Board officials held a press conference Wednesday evening. 

Geremia Di Maro | Cavalier Daily

The National Transportation Safety Board has taken charge of an investigation into the collision of a truck and an Amtrak passenger train Wednesday morning. The train was carrying Republican members of Congress to a legislative retreat in West Virginia. One person is confirmed dead and six others were sent to the University’s Medical Center for treatment, with one in critical condition.

According to a statement by the Albemarle County Police Department, the deceased individual was Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County. Foley was one of two passengers in the truck alongside the driver involved in the collision. The other passenger was airlifted to the University Medical Center with critical injuries and the driver was transported to the hospital by ground.

According to an Amtrak spokesperson, the train came into contact with a vehicle on the tracks at 11:20 a.m. The vehicle was a garbage disposal truck.

All members of Congress on the train — including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan — were unharmed, save for a few minor injuries. 

Earl Weener, an NTSB representative, said NTSB agents arrived on the scene of the incident around 4:40 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. According to Weener, NTSB agents will be working with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration during the investigation. He added Pete Kotowski, a senior highway safety investigator for the NTSB, will be in charge of conducting the investigation. 

Weener said he could not confirm whether or not there was a fatality associated with the incident, and that local authorities are responsible for issuing such reports. However, Weener said he received reports that individuals aboard the train aided in the recovery of other injured passengers. 

According to Weener, the investigation process throughout the next several days will be focused on examining the collision site to find out what occurred and why. 

“Over the next few days our investigators will work on the scene to document the crash site and gather factual information,” Weener said. “Our mission is to understand not only what happened, but why it happened and to make recommendations to prevent it from happening again.”

Weener declined to answer questions from reporters regarding the potential cause of the crash, saying no conclusions would be drawn until the investigation was complete. 

“We will not be determining the probable cause of the accident while on the scene nor we will speculate about the cause prior to the conclusion of the investigation,” Weener said. “We expect the on-scene phase investigation to last several days.”

Weener said NTSB investigators will utilize a number of “factor groups” to analyze the collision site, including human, highway, vehicle, motor carrier and survival factors. 

According to Weener, the human factors group takes into account the potential responsibility of the train operator in the incident, including factors such as the operator’s background, licensing, experience and level of training as well as the possible influence of alcohol or drugs. 

Weener also said NTSB officials will attempt to recover recording devices located in the main and trailing locomotives. Any recovered data will be analyzed within the next couple of months at the NTSB headquarters.

In response to questions from journalists about the possibility of the collision being the result of an attack of some kind, Weener said there was currently no evidence of such an incident. 

“The NTSB does safety investigations so the fact that we are here, the presumption is that it was an accident,” Weener said. “Should we find anything that indicates differently, we’ll immediately involve the proper authorities.”

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