(Crozet, Virginia – January 31, 2018)
A day after a chartered Amtrak passenger train loaded with GOP lawmakers, their spouses and families, collided with a garbage truck at the lighted and gated crossing of Lanetown Road, residents and frequent users of the single-track crossing were relating accounts of gates and lights which frequently malfunctioned. The railroad signs and signals, including gates are owned and maintained by the privately-owned Buckingham Branch Railroad which carries a daily average of five Amtrak, CSX and BBRR trains daily at a maximum allowable speed of 60 mph through Crozet, VA.
The driver and one trash worker who were in the cab of the truck owned and operated by Time Disposal Company sustained serious injuries. 28-year-old Christopher Foley of Louisa County, VA and the father of a one-year-old son, was pronounced dead at the scene. .
In all, six people were reported to having been transported to the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. That number included the two trash truck survivors, two Amtrak crew members and two passengers on the train which was bound for the famed Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
Although according to the railroad the gates were down and the flashing light signals operating when the trash truck driver allegedly drove around the lowered gates, a slew of residents and frequent users of the crossing were telling news media sources, including the Associated Press, that the gates had been seen malfunctioning the day before the tragic accident.
The crossing had been known to have been the site of at least one previous accident.
Nearby resident Gene Locke told the AP that he had pulled up to the crossing between 8:30 and 9:30 A.M., EST Tuesday, and found the gates down and the lights flashing for a train that never came. However, he “did not report this, as it was the first time this has happened in my observation”
Meanwhile, Jane Rogers, who lives about two miles from the tragic crash site reported that when she arrived at the crossing Tuesday, the gates were down but no train was in evidence. “It was a weird up-and-down thing,” she told the AP reporter. “Then, the next day, the accident happened at that intersection.”She said she reported the incident to the police after the fatal crash, and would have had there been anyone to report it to Tuesday, but “Who do you call? No one knows.”
Finally, Benny Layne, upon whose property the wreckage of the refuse truck landed, told the AP the gates often activated with no train ever coming, and in some cases staying down for hours. “A guy (from the railroad) was up here just yesterday or the day before, taking a look at them,” he said Wednesday.