Several still recovering from train accident; investigation continues

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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