CHEAT MOUNTAIN, W.Va. — Several people are still being treated at hospitals in Morgantown and Elkins following Friday afternoon’s accident on Route 250 in Randolph County involving a logging truck that slammed into the side of a tourist train.

On Monday morning, Lawrence Messina, spokesperson for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said two people were in fair condition and one person was in serious condition at Ruby Memorial Hospital, while another person was in stable condition at Davis Memorial Hospital.

In all, more than 20 people were treated for injuries sustained when the logging truck ran into the Cheat Mountain Salamander, a privately owned tourist train operated by Durbin and Greenbrier Valley Railroad, as it crossed Route 250 near the Pocahontas County line.

At the time, state officials estimated the train was going 10 miles per hour.

Messina said the train company has a reputation for safety.  “I’ve been told that the engineer, as he was crossing the road, saw the truck approaching and actually tried to speed up to clear the intersection and then, after the collision, the conductor of the train ran a third of a mile to the nearby station to call for help,” he said.

In the area where the accident happened, there is no cell phone service and it is also a radio quiet zone.  Because of the call, emergency responders from Randolph County and Pocahontas County were on scene within 15 minutes of the crash.

Messina said, of the four cars on the train, the truck hit the third car that was being used as a dining car and the logs from the truck went into the second car.

“Very fortunately, that part of the car was being used for storage, so there were no passengers actually where the logs entered the car,” he said.  “But the force, which was so tremendous, it knocked those two cars right onto the tracks, right onto their sides.”

He said the cars were reinforced with crash posts.  “This is why the cars didn’t crumple when they were hit by this tremendous force or why metal didn’t shear or glass didn’t shatter.  Instead, they just got knocked off their track,” said Messina.

H&H Fisher’s Logging Company of Bartow owns the truck.  Messina said the truck had been inspected within the two days of the accident and there were no problems detected with the brakes.  The driver, who was killed, was identified as Danny Lee Kimble, Sr., of Frank in Pocahontas County.

“Witness accounts indicate that he was traveling at a significant amount of speed, but we really want to wait on the investigation to see how that part of this stacks up,” said Messina.  He said the warning lights at the railroad crossing, which were recently upgraded, were working.

“It’s a well marked crossing, well known to folks who travel it and, as you’re driving an appropriate speed, it (the train crossing) is not a factor at all.”

The state Public Service Commission was part of the investigation focused on the accident that continued Monday.

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  • Old Log Driver

    First off, my condolences to the driver's family and all the folks involved in this situation. All of you are in my prayers.

    As a former log truck driver myself, I have to say that despite all the quarreling here about gates, lights and the frequency of rail traffic, the fact remains that the truck driver simply failed to control his vehicle. This is NOT stated as a condemnation of Mr. Kimble. It is just, as far as I can tell by the story, an undeniable fact.

    If I were to venture a guess as to what caused Mr. Kimble to lose control of his rig, I would guess complacency. Unfortunately, complacency can and does quite often prove quite dire. And, as I said, that is merely my GUESS.

    Good day to all.

  • Bob Sesco

    My wife and I were aboard the rail car that took most of the impact. The logs did not enter the car that was occupied by travelers as told by the speaker. Our car was knocked completely over on it's side, the dinning car behind us was leaning on it's side. The coupler was sheared off the car in front of ours due to the impact. There was no fog on the ground, actually very clear. The first responers were marvelous, very professional and concerned. Everyone - all passengers were talked with on the scene concerning any injury they may have had. Thanks to all the police, others on the train that helped and hospital attendants for their concern and help.
    A little dissapointed that the railroad company has never called - e-mailed to ask if we were OK or had concerns.

    • Laura

      Bob, hello me and my friend were in the first car. Do you know how the 3 are doing who were still in the hospital? We were wondering.
      Also yes we're surprised nobody has sent out anything from the railroad company.
      Hope you are well.

  • D. P. Lubic

    Might be interested in seeing this commentary and discussion on a railroad enthusiasts' page, Railway Preservation News. Has some Google satellite links to the location, links to photos, etc.

  • rob pine

    The USDOT crossing number is 943961L. If the state put lights in the project has to be on the state transportation plan ---Google shows nothing ---Where is the new crossing light order? Where is the bids on the order? How much did WE spend? Why did WE spend this much?

    In fact where is the list of where $2 million in Federal safety funds for W.V. by crossing number, by amount, and by WHY the amount was spent with no bids?

    • Graham L.

      Rob, wow, you are quite the conspiracy theorist. Fact is, the lights WERE replaced but by the railroad itself, not the state. Also, it was not foggy at the time of the accident, and even if it had been, how could one miss the red flashing lights? This driver lived just 15 miles from the crossing in question, and being a truck driver, should have been very familiar with the road and the crossing. The crossing is clearly visible for AT LEAST 300 yards on either side of the tracks because it is a straight section of road. Also, while one of the signals was destroyed in the accident, the other one was working fine. Also, just to remind you, there were more than 60 first hand witnesses to this tragedy that wouldn't have been afraid to tell the truth if there was a "cover up"

      • rob pine

        Pretty obvious from this picture probably two hours after that their was fog.
        Pretty obvious both lights were toast. 7:40 into tape ---lights were destroyed Pretty obvious the cantilevers out over the road is missing. Pretty obvious your the Christmas turkey thing with 300 yards of sight lines. It's illegal for the railroad to modify signals without state orders---Where are the state orders? And with a picture off weather channel even the 50 year old looking half weathered out "W" whistle sign is way too close for the 20 mph train speed limit there. It should be 565 feet out not 80 feet.
        Pretty obvious there couldn't be 60 witnesses unless all seats were window seats on the uphill side of the train. Any witness not saying what the railroad or their state handmaidens want to be heard will be lost.

        Looks like to me the truck driver intentionally jack knived after getting caught in the train trap and saved a bunch of lives.

        • Don WV

          Rob, you know nothing! No lights over the road, lights located are on each side.
          Next, how can you jack knife a log truck? It doesn't have a trailer! Also, yes it was a little foggy that day (I live here), but nothing to obstruct the visibility in the least!

          • Laura

            It was drizzling out off and on that day. Not foggy. I was on the train. And that picture wasn't taken right after the accident. Crews were there for hours and I didn't see a photographer show up or news people while we waited. I did however clearly see that logger coming down the hill and no fog. Heard the train whistle and sitting in rear facing seats you can see the further light when ur was is against window actually.
            I don't know how this is a debate either way. Point is he could've stopped but obviously couldn't due to some reason.

  • rob pine

    1 train a day ---say 60 seconds crossing the road ---why would drivers be use to seeing a train?

  • rob pine

    Let's put this same guy in the same truck and DEMONSTRATE how great the sight lines are IN THE FOG. Oh look at the FOG sight seers. Geez who puts a train across a state highway in the fog?

    Obvious to anybody that knows sight lines the sight lines obviously fail for 55 mph traffic. Especially down hill and lots of heavy haul trucks.

    Also whoever from the state THAT lied that the signals were working when the signals were "DESTROYED" needs warrants for falsifying a traffic report and JURY TAMPERING!!

    • Laura

      The signals were working, even if they couldn't verify that if posts were knocked down there were over 60 of us on the train who seen them working

  • JTC

    Wonder if the driver may have had a heart attack or something of that nature before hitting the train.

  • Bill

    School buses stop at all RR crossings, why can't all "big rigs"?

    • Jonus Grumby

      Because they are not required to.