CROZET, Va. (AP) — The lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board said it’s too early to say whether the safety arms in a rural Virginia crossing were working every time a train transporting GOP members of Congress slammed to a trash truck, killing one truck rider.
Drivers who often cross over the monitors said they had seen the safety equipment seem to be malfunctioning per day before Wednesday’s accident.
Pete Kotowski, the lead investigator for the NTSB, said investigators would conduct an exhaustive investigation into the crash, which also injured six other people as lawmakers were jumped to get a luxury hotel in West Virginia for days of strategizing.
The train was traveling “about 61 miles” (98 kph) only minutes until it slammed into the truck, Kotowski said. The speed limit in the crossing is 60 miles (97 kph), Kotowski said in a news conference Thursday.
Researchers have spoken using four eyewitnesses, interviewed one of those crew members in the train and scheduled a meeting with the scientist, Kotowski said. They’re “in the process” of attempting to interview the driver of this truck, he said.
Gene Locke, who lives close to the paths in Crozet, said he pulled up to the crossing between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and saw that the safety arms were down and the sign light was flashing, but no railway was coming from either direction. After waiting a minute or so, he backed up, turned around and took another path, assuming there was a malfunction of the sign crossing or employees were analyzing it.
“I did not report that, as it had been the very first time that has occurred in my observation because I have been utilizing that crossing for several decades,” Locke told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Jane Rogers, who lives about 2 miles (3 km) from the wreck site, said that when she came in the crossing Tuesday, the gate was down, despite the fact that there were no trains coming. She explained after waiting, 1 car before her and two cars behind her flipped. Then, as she started to turn, the gate went up. 1 automobile then grabbed the paths, but Rogers said she waited another 30 seconds and the gate went down. No trains passed, ” she said.
“It was a weird up-and-down item,” she said. “Then the next day, the accident occurred at the intersection.”
The trash company, Time Disposal, has been in business for 33 decades and contains 17 drivers and 15 trucks, Kotowski said.
“The organization has been subject to six roadside safety inspections using just two of them leading to vehicles being put out of service,” Kotowski said.
In addition, he said the company had just two reported crashes one in 2015 and also one in 2016 — but gave no further details on these injuries.
Wednesday’s collision happened at an intersection that crosses the tracks on top of a hill where visibility is restricted.
Carrie Brown, human resources director at Buckingham Branch Railroad, which leases the stretch of course and accounts for maintenance, said Wednesday that she had been unaware of any issues with equipment in the crossing. She declined further comment Thursday and referred all questions regarding the NTSB.
No safety review records for the crossing were instantly available.
The State Corporation Commission, which inspects railroad centers including track and equipment, does not keep inspection records but turns them over to the Federal Railroad Administration, SCC spokesman Andy Farmer explained.
A spokesman for the Railroad Administration said details on inspections would demand a public records request.
The lawmakers were in their way to the escape at The Greenbrier hotel when the crash happened around 11:20 a.m., about 125 miles (200 km) southwest of Washington. Kotowski said Thursday that tens of thousands of people were on board.
Time Disposal identified its worker who was murdered as Christopher Foley, 28, and said he had been the dad of a 1-year-old boy. Six other people were hurt. One stayed in critical condition Friday and one had been in good shape, according to the University of Virginia Medical Center. Four people were published.