One of East Texas’ own serving in the House of Representatives is reportedly uninjured after an Amtrak train collided with another vehicle as the train was carrying Republican lawmakers to an annual conference last week.
Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, a seven-term representative from Texas’ District 1, which includes Angelina, Gregg, Harrison, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby and Smith Counties, along with parts of Upshur and Wood Counties, was one of a number of GOP members who were on the train headed to the party’s annual conference in West Virginia Wednesday, Jan. 31.
The crash occurred at approximately 11:20 a.m. at a rural railroad crossing in Crozet, about 110 miles southwest of Washington DC. The train was carrying an estimated 450 people.
According to a release from Gohmert’s communications office, the congressman was uninjured amongst the host of lawmakers, congressional aides, and family members.
A report from the Washington Post stated that officials at the University of Virginia Medical Center saw a total of six injured people from the crash, with one in critical condition, four having been evaluated, and one being discharged from the hospital Wednesday night.
The wreck did claim one life, as one of the three people inside of the garbage truck that had stopped on the railroad crossing had died. The man was later identified as Christopher Foley, 28, of Louisa County, Va.
Although not listed as seriously injured in the accident, Minnesota Republican Congressman Jason Lewis was taken to the hospital. According to a spokesman, Lewis suffered a concussion and was treated and released from the hospital.
In an exclusive interview with Gohmert with Bullard Banner News via email, the congressman shared his thoughts on the train accident, including how it felt inside of the train the moment when the garbage truck was struck.
“The loss of one life, while another hangs in the balance, was an absolutely tragic result of the garbage truck collision with the train carrying Republican members of the House and Senate,” said Gohmert, in the email. “Though a handful of others were briefly hospitalized, it appears that no one was critically injured who was on the train. Otherwise, the worst injuries to those on the train were bruises and bumps. In fact, my wife Kathy was knocked off her feet and bruised in the accident. This is supposed to be the one time each year we peacefully gather with spouses and family where we set our agenda and plans for the year. We’ll have to wait for the report by the Accident Report to determine whether the garbage truck was stranded on the train track or tried to run across ahead of the truck, as we continue to pray for those harmed and those who lost someone in the accident.”
The GOP leadership in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate also weighed in on the wreck in publically released statements.
On his Twitter account, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said “We are grateful for the first responders who rushed to the scene and we pray for the victims and their families. May they all be in our thoughts right now.”
Likewise, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement saying “My condolences, and those of the entire Senate family, go out to the victim’s family, friends, and co-workers. Our prayers are with the other accident victims who are fighting to recover from their injuries.”
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as the Federal Railroad Administration responded to investigate the scene.
In a press conference held Wednesday evening, a representative from the NTSB said that investigators were on the scene but had minimal information at the time.
He also said in the investigation, the department would look at the train’s event recorders, as well as whether speed or fatigue were factors, the condition of the train, the tracks, crossing and gates, the condition of the driver and the truck’s condition and speed.
According to the NTSB, the investigation into the wreck could take several days at the scene of the accident, as well as months of investigating at their headquarters in Washington DC.
A member of the US House of Representatives since his first election in January 2005, Gohmert will once again fill the role as incumbent in the upcoming March 6 primaries, facing off against Republican challengers Anthony Culler and Roshin Rowjee.
In the Democratic primaries, two candidates are squaring off for the chance to face Gohmert in the November 6 general election, including Brent Beal and Shirley McKellar.