By John Raby
A logging truck collided Friday with a train carrying passengers on a scenic tour in peak fall foliage season in the West Virginia mountains, killing one person and injuring 24 people Friday, authorities said.
Two of the rail cars turned on their sides and logs lay spilled about.
A preliminary toll of more than 60 hurt initially reported by authorities was subsequently revised downward by a hospital official, Tracy Fath. She told The Associated Press on Friday evening that dozens who had been brought to a hospital by a school bus — with what one official initially described as lesser injuries — were subsequently determined to be unhurt.
“We’ve got 24 people who were treated” in the emergency room, Fath told AP by telephone from Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins. She added that of the 24 treated, three were admitted to the hospital, two in serious condition and one stable.
As for those brought in on the bus, they were given “comfort care” and released, Fath said. She said she couldn’t release more details on the extent of the injuries or the identities of those hurt. The worst injuries were brought in by ambulance.
The cause of the accident between the truck and the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad train on an excursion at the height of autumn leaf-watching season in the state’s eastern Appalachian region wasn’t immediately known.
Two rail passenger cars overturned in the accident at 1:30 p.m. Friday along U.S. Route 250 about 160 miles east of Charleston at Cheat Mountain, said emergency services director Shawn Dunbrack of Pocahontas County.
News photographs showed a chaotic early scene of first-responders aiding the injured beside two rail cars turned on their sides next to the tracks at a crossing on the highway. Huge logs lay in a jumbled pile beside the overturned cars as firefighters with water hoses stood nearby. Emergency vehicles lined the shoulders against a backdrop of forest with brilliant red and yellow foliage.
Randolph County emergency services director Jim Wise said he confirmed one fatality and at least three people badly injured. But he said he didn’t know any more about who had died or where that person was at the time of the accident.
“It was a pretty good impact,” Wise told AP. “The tracks actually go across U.S. 250 there, right on top of the mountain.”
He said he knew of no other accident in recent memory at the crossing.
Wise had said initially that 21 people were taken to a hospital in Elkins by ambulances and that dozens of others were transported there by bus with lesser injuries — an early toll in the chaotic aftermath later revised downward by the hospital.
Dunbrack said the train involved was operated by the Durbin & Greenbrier Railroad.
The railroad operates several trains in the area, including the Cheat Mountain Salamander that runs Tuesdays through Saturdays in October on a 6.5-hour trip. The railroad said there were three passenger cars Friday on the 88-mile roundtrip that left Elkins on a route taking passengers to elevations of more than 4,000 feet.
The train travels about 25 mph alongside a boulder-strewn river, crossing a bridge barely wider than the train, rumbling through an 1,800-foot tunnel and then passing an abandoned rail bridge.
The overturned passenger cars lay beside the tracks, roped off with yellow crime scene tape as police and others looked on.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved and the emergency responders working the tragic accident in Randolph County this afternoon,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement.
Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said state Department of Environmental Protection crews were sent to the site to help clean up a large fuel spill. Neither Goodwin nor Wise knew whether the spill came from the truck or the train.
Route 250 over Cheat Mountain was closed indefinitely.
The driver of the logging truck wasn’t immediately identified.