A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on January 31 in Virginia collision between a garbage truck and an Amtrak passenger train indicates that witnesses said the garbage truck entered the crossing after the gates were down.
The crash occurred at a busy highway-railroad grade crossing in Albemarle County and involved a 2018 Freightliner truck operated by Time Disposal LLC and an Amtrak train consisting of two locomotives and eight passenger cars filled with Republican lawmakers heading to a retreat. According to the NTSB, the crossing has advance warning signs and pavement markings along with crossbuck signs, warning lights, bells and gates.
The NTSB’s investigation has benefited from the forward-facing track image camera with which the train’s lead locomotive was equipped. In addition to the witness statements, data extracted from the camera post-crash showed that as the crossing came into view, the gates were down and the refuse truck was on the grade crossing.
Preliminary information from the train’s onboard recorder indicates that the Amtrak train was traveling about 61 mph when the engineer applied emergency braking. The train struck the left rear of the refuse truck, causing the truck to rotate counterclockwise and then collide with a railroad signal bungalow next to the tracks. The front axle of the lead locomotive derailed as the train continued west but the locomotive remained upright.
The refuse body separated from the truck, and the truck’s two passengers were ejected. One passenger was killed, the other sustained serious injuries, and the driver of the truck sustained minor injuries.
Three Amtrak crewmembers and three train passengers sustained minor injuries.
NTSB investigators, along with personnel from the Albemarle County Police Department and the FBI, documented the crash scene and the physical characteristics of the crossing, the train, and the refuse truck. The track and operational characteristics of the crossing signals were also examined and documented.
NTSB investigators continue to examine issues related to the highway–railroad grade crossing. Investigators are also coordinating additional passenger and witness interviews and continue to gather information related to motor carrier operations, rail operations, and driver and train crew experience. All aspects of the crash remain under investigation while the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.