Roe recounts details of train crash, attempting to save man’s life

Published 4:41 pm Sunday, February 4, 2018

A local Congressman was aboard an Amtrak train that collided with a garbage truck on Wednesday in Virginia, and he was one of several doctors who helped render aid to those who were injured.

On Thursday afternoon, Congressman Phil Roe, M.D., recounted the events of the previous day. Roe and several other Republican lawmakers were on their way from Washington D.C. to West Virginia for the annual legislative retreat when the accident occurred.

“We do this every year after the State of the Union,” Roe said.

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During the retreat, the GOP lawmakers work to develop the party’s legislative agenda for the coming year. Around 11:20 a.m., the chartered Amtrak train carrying the Congress members and their families collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Va., which is just outside of Charlottesville, Va. According to national media reports, witnesses told investigators they saw the truck trying to snake his way through the crossing gates despite the fact the bars were down and the warning lights were flashing.

A passenger in the truck died at the scene, and the driver of the truck is still hospitalized in serious condition according to national media reports.

“About 15 minutes or so after Charlottesville, I was sitting there with Clarinda (his wife) having a Coke, and there was a loud noise,” Roe said. “It was very obvious we had hit something.”

Roe said he was in the sixth car back from the engine and the impact shook the carriage, knocking some people to the ground. “It knocked the train engine off the track,” Roe said of the impact. “Thankfully the rest of the train didn’t derail. If it had, it would have been much worse. The area I was at was on an embankment and the car would have rolled over.”

Members of the US Capitol Police and Secret Service were also on board at the time of the accident, according to Roe.

“At first they didn’t want to let us off the train because they didn’t know if it had been a terrorist attack,” Roe said. However, Roe said as he looked out the windows of the train he could see there were injured people outside. Roe said he and several other members of Congress who are also physicians or have other medical training opened the doors to the train and went to try to help the men who had been in the garbage truck.

“I went to this one individual who was down and started looking at him,” Roe said, adding other doctors and medical personnel began arriving. “Then I looked over and saw another man and no one was caring for him, so I went over to him.”

“The man I got to, I believe, was killed instantly,” he added.

Roe said he checked for a pulse and along with Rep. Roger Marshall began CPR and tried to utilize an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the man, but they were not able to resuscitate him.

“We worked on him until the EMTs came,” Roe recalled. “It was really frustrating to not be able to help that man.”

“He was 28 years old and had his whole life ahead of him,” Roe continued. “It’s just tough to see a young man die like that. I walked away from there feeling pretty bad.”

After leaving the wreck scene, the Congressional delegates continued to their legislative retreat, but Roe said the mood was more somber than it had been.

Roe said the members of the GOP Doctors Caucus, which is co-chairman of, are planning to do a debriefing on the accident to look at how the physicians responded, what medical equipment they could have used but did not have, and what, if anything, they could have done better.

“We are going to learn from this and be better next time,” Roe said.