CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A logging truck collided Friday with a train carrying passengers on a scenic tour amid peak fall foliage season in the West Virginia mountains, killing one person and injuring 24 people Friday, authorities said. Two of the rail cars turned on their sides.
A preliminary toll of more than 60 hurt tallied initially by authorities was subsequently revised downward by a hospital official, Tracy Fath. She told The Associated Press on Friday evening that dozens brought to a hospital by a school bus were subsequently determined to be unhurt — despite an earlier account from an emergency official who said dozens on the bus had lesser injuries.
“We’ve got 24 people who were treated” in the emergency room, Fath said by telephone from Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins. She added that of the 24 treated, three were admitted to the hospital, two in serious condition and one in stable condition.
She said she couldn’t release details of the injuries or the identities of those hurt.
She said the worst injuries were brought in by ambulance and the 39 others counted by the hospital who were brought on a bus didn’t require medical care. “We gave them comfort care, sat them down … made them comfortable,” she said of those merely shaken.
The cause of the accident between the truck and the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad train on an excursion at the height of autumn leaf-watching season in the state’s mountainous eastern region wasn’t immediately known.
Two rail passenger cars overturned in the accident at 1:30 p.m. Friday along U.S. Route 250 about 160 miles east of Charleston at Cheat Mountain, said emergency services director Shawn Dunbrack of Pocahontas County.
News photographs showed first responders beside the highway aiding the injured, the scenic route threading woods splashed with brilliant red and yellow foliage. Emergency vehicles lined the shoulders of the route.
Randolph County emergency services director Jim Wise said he confirmed one fatality and at least three people badly injured.
Of the two rail cars on their side, he said, “It was a pretty good impact.”
“The tracks actually go acros U.S. 250 there, right on top of the mountain,” he said, adding he knew of no accident at that site in recent memory.
Wise had said initially that 21 people were taken to a hospital in Elkins by ambulances and dozens of others were transported there by bus with lesser injuries. While he said one person was killed, he didn’t know if the fatality was aboard the train or the truck.
Dunbrack said the train involved was operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad.
The railroad operates several trains in the area, including the Cheat Mountain Salamander that runs Tuesdays through Saturdays in October on a 6.5-hour trip. The railroad said there were three passenger cars Friday on the 88-mile roundtrip that left Elkins on a route taking passengers to elevations of more than 4,000 feet.
The train travels about 25 mph alongside a boulder-strewn river, crossing a bridge barely wider than the train, rumbling through an 1,800-foot tunnel and then passing an abandoned rail bridge.
The overturned passenger cars lay beside the tracks, roped off with yellow crime scene tape as police and others looked on.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved and the emergency responders working the tragic accident in Randolph County this afternoon,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement.
Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said state Department of Environmental Protection crews were sent to the site to help clean up a large fuel spill. Neither Goodwin nor Wise knew whether the spill came from the truck or the train.
Route 250 over Cheat Mountain was closed indefinitely.
The driver of the logging truck wasn’t immediately identified.