At least one person has died after a train carrying Republican members of the US Congress crashed into a bin lorry at a railroad crossing in rural Virginia.
No members of Congress or their staff were seriously injured in the collision, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, but one person travelling in the truck was killed and another seriously injured. Investigations are underway into the cause of the accident.
Amtrak said two crew members and three train passengers were taken to hospital with minor injuries after the crash in Crozet, Virginia. Senator Bill Cassidy, a doctor, said he and others who are doctors tended to the injured until emergency personnel arrived.
The legislators were en route to a three-day conference in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, to discuss politics and policies for the upcoming year before the crash occurred at 11.20 local time [16:20 GMT]. Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were expected to make an appearance.
“We were going along the Virginia countryside at pretty good speed,” Senator Jeff Flake said in comments released by his office. “All of a sudden, we felt an impact and obviously heard a pretty loud noise. Most of us were thrown a bit in our seats and those of us who were standing were really thrown.”
The legislators chartered buses to bring them the remainder of the distance to their destination. Mr Pence tweeted that he would be heading to West Virginia later on Wednesday, as previously planned.
Mr Trump was in a national security meeting at the time of the crash, Ms Sanders said. The President later told reporters that he had spoken with Mr Ryan about the incident and that his thoughts were with those affected.
“It was a pretty rough hit,” Mr Trump said of the crash.
Pictures from the scene showed the truck knocked on its side, rubbish spilling out on the ground around it. The front of the Amtrak train also appeared dented and scratched.
Some legislators on the train reported injuries such as whiplash and possible mild concussion.
“There was a feeling of an impact and you could feel we had hit something,” Senator Mike Lee told the Washington Post of the crash. ”It took us maybe a quarter mile to stop.”
He added: “We saw debris go by the left side of the train. The part of the truck we can see was decimated. Very relieved when the train came to a stop and still on the tracks.”
Among those lending a hand to emergency responders was Representative Brad Wenstrup, who treated some of the victims at a GOP baseball practice last June where several people were shot, including Representative Steve Scalise.
“We jumped off the train and went to work,” Representative Neal Dunn told ABC News. “Every member of the ‘Doc Caucus’ got out of the train and helped the guys who’d been injured.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation said there were flashing signals and gates on the intersection where the crash occurred, to stop drivers from entering the tracks when a train was approaching. There have been three reported crashes near the intersection since 2007, but none involving a train.
Local law enforcement was investigating the incident and crews were inspecting the train’s equipment for damage, Amtrak said in a statement. The United States Capitol Police were also on the scene, and the National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate .