U.S. Representative John Culberson (R-TX) was on board the Amtrak train that slammed into a garbage truck near Charlottesville, Virginia on Wednesday. Congressman Culberson says the force of impact derailed the front of the train, injuring the engineer, and knocking fellow U.S. lawmakers to the floor.
U.S. Rep. Culberson says at least one member of Congress and several staffers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. He suffered neck pain after the train slammed into the garbage truck while he and his wife were sitting two-to-three cars from the front of the train.
"We really weren't sure what happened at first," says Rep. Culberson, who represents 7th Congressional District of Texas in Harris County. "It genuinely looked like an explosion. There was a tremendous amount of smoke, and ash blew by my window."
Rep. Culberson says the Amtrak train was carrying Republican members of Congress and their staff from Washington, D.C., to a policy retreat in West Virginia, when the train came upon the truck across the tracks.
"The train hit the truck just behind the cab, and we still don't know why he was on the track," says Rep. Culberson. "Both gates were down....there was a railroad crossing. The gates were down. The driver had to have attempted to get around the gates. There's no other explanation. The gates were intact. One arm on one gate was damaged a little bit like he'd attempted to drive around it, and the damage to the vehicle was catastrophic."
With the help of a Capital Police officer, the members of Congress were able to get one of the doors open on the back of the train explains Culberson. They rushed to help two men they saw on the ground next to the truck, which had been ripped apart on impact.
"Congressman Michael Burgess, who's also a doctor, he exited the train shortly after Congressman Phil Roe and went out to help the driver and the other man who was on the ground."
The Congress members helped the injured train passengers until first responders could arrive. One photo shows the members of Congress and their staffers carrying one of the injured across the tracks.
"What the family of those two men on the truck suffered, we're praying for them," says Congressman Culberson.
Around 100 members of Congress were on the train when the crash took place, according to Rep. James Comer. They were then transferred to buses to continue their trip to West Virginia where Republicans will plan their legislative agenda for the year.