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McSally describes scene of deadly Va. Amtrak crash

There was a sudden jolt, then the power went out.

Then came the calls for help. And the prayers.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally said Wednesday's crash of an Amtrak train carrying GOP members of Congress to a retreat was "an awful tragedy for the victims, for the families."

One person died and another is fighting for his life after the crash at 9:20 a.m. Arizona time, 12 miles west of Charlottesville, Virginia. The train was taking lawmakers to Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, W.V., for their annual policy retreat when it struck the garbage truck.

McSally said it's unclear how the truck ended up on the tracks, and was expecting a briefing when she arrived at Greenbrier later in the day. There were minor injuries on the train, though McSally was not injured.

"I really appreciate the well-wishes for us, but it's not about us, we're fine," she said. "It' about somebody fighting for their life and about a lost life."

McSally was on the next-to-last car of the 10-car train when they hit the truck. Reports said the train was going 50 mph.

"There was a sudden jolt, jarring," McSally said. "Clearly, something was wrong."

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She said the bed of the large trash-hauling truck had separated from the rest of the vehicle.

The call went up and down the train for anybody with medical training to help out. They quickly mobilized — doctors, nurses and military veterans with medical backgrounds. They left the emergency exits as Capitol Police secured the area, said McSally, who represents Congressional District 2 in Southern Arizona.

The crash turned members of Congress into first responders.

McSally said Reps. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio; Larry Bucshon, a doctor from Indiana; and Roger Marshall, a doctor from Kansas, along with a spouse who is a nurse, were among those who responded. Marshall was among those who gave the truck driver CPR, according to one report. Bucshon tended to injured passengers.

"They were rendering aid and life-saving support pretty quickly," McSally said.

Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn. was being evaluated for a possible concussion, according to his office. Amtrak said two of its employees and three passengers were injured.

"You kind of feel helpless in a situation like that, not having medical training. I just started quietly praying. I chose not to look out the window. I felt the best I could do was to pray."

She ended up praying with a colleague and his wife.

"It's the best we could do in that moment of crisis for those people," she said.

At least 190 House members and four members of Congress from Arizona were on the train, including Sen. Jeff Flake. Spouses and children joined some of them.

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McSally said the train was backed up to Charlottesville where they were transferred to buses to complete the trip.

The NTSB is investigating the crash.

This story was first published by the Sahuarita Sun.


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Click image to enlarge

This photo from the Amtrak crash in Crozet, Va., shows the garbage truck in two pieces.