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Driver killed in truck-train collision

By Staff, wire reports

CHEAT BRIDGE, W.Va. -- A truck driver was killed and 23 other people were injured when a logging truck collided with a passenger train Friday in Randolph County.

The incident occurred at a train crossing on U.S. Route 250 near Cheat Bridge, which is near the Pocahontas-Randolph county line, at about 1:30 p.m., according to Randolph County 911 dispatchers.

Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady said two of the train's passenger cars flipped onto their sides after impact, the log truck was a "total loss" and its driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Chief Buster Varner of the Bartow-Frank-Durbin Volunteer Fire Department identified the driver as Danny Lee Kimble Sr., of Frank.

Authorities said 63 people were aboard the train. At least six of the injured were hospitalized with serious injuries.

"The railroad crossing signals were flashing at the scene. As all emergency personnel arrived, we observed the signals flashing at the time," Brady said at a taped news conference held with hospital officials who emailed the audio recording to The Associated Press.

"At this juncture of the investigation, it appears that the log truck had run through the crossing signals and struck the passenger cars of the train," Brady said in the recording emailed by Davis Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Fath.

A preliminary toll of more than 60 injured in the incident was revised downward by Fath. She told The Associated Press Friday evening that dozens of people brought to a hospital by bus were found to be unhurt.

Earlier Friday, Randolph sheriff's deputies reported that one person had been killed and more than a dozen had been injured, some critically. Paramedics took about 20 people by ambulance to Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins, said Vernon Edinger, administrative assistant at the Randolph County Office of Emergency Management.

Edinger had asked that people not inundate the hospital with calls about loved ones. About 30 people were checked out at the scene and taken to the hospital by school buses sent by the county.

The Durbin & Greenbrier Valley Railroad owns the train. John Smith, the company's owner, didn't return a phone call Friday evening. The train takes passengers on a four-hour, 46-mile trip past the High Falls of Cheat waterfall, according to the company's website.

The collision closed U.S. 250 north of Cheat Bridge to Durbin. On Friday afternoon, West Virginia Division of Highways workers recommended W.Va. 28 and W.Va. 66 as detours around the area.

Earlier in the day, Fath had said at least eight ambulances arrived at the hospital. She didn't know the condition of the arrivals.

"Some wished to have medical care. Some declined to have medical care," Fath told the AP in the afternoon. "Our staff is on the bus trying to [assess] which ones will want to be seen."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued a statement about the incident.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved and the emergency responders working the tragic accident in Randolph County this afternoon," Tomblin stated. "My administration is working with all agencies involved to ensure the first responders and emergency managers on the ground are receiving the assistance they need."

Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection crews were sent to the site to help clean up a large fuel spill. Neither Goodwin nor Randolph County emergency services director Jim Wise knew whether the spill came from the truck or the train

Later Friday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also issued a statement.

"While we await the details of this afternoon's devastating accident in Randolph County, my heart goes out to all those who are suffering from injuries and to the families of those who were hurt or killed," he said. "Tonight, all of West Virginia holds them in our thoughts and prayers."

Rockefeller added that, unfortunately, accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board would not be able to immediately investigate the incident because they've been furloughed during the federal government's partial shutdown.


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