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Train carrying US Republicans hits truck, killing driver

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Train carrying US Republicans hits truck, killing driver

Train carrying US Republicans hits truck, killing driver
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A passenger train carrying Republican members of the US Congress to an annual retreat slammed into a rubbish truck on Wednesday (January 31) in Virginia, killing its driver, authorities said.

No serious injuries were reported among the lawmakers or their staff on the train, the US Department of Transportation said. There was one death and one serious injury among those on the truck.

Two crew members and three train passengers were hospitalised with minor injuries after the crash in Crozet, Virginia.

The truck was straddling the tracks at a crossing when the crash occurred, according to US passenger railroad service Amtrak. Video from the scene showed the battered truck afterwards, with rubbish strewn around it.

The train was taking lawmakers from Washington D.C. to a retreat held this year in West Virginia.

US Senator Bill Cassidy said he, his wife and other lawmakers who are doctors tended to the injured until emergency personnel arrived.

Lawmakers and their families on board

Immediately after the crash, some feared it might be a deliberate attack.

A law enforcement team surrounded the train with weapons drawn and searched the area for possible assailants as first responders treated the injured, a local emergency worker told Reuters.

Spouses and children of some lawmakers were on the train, and so was House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.

The Republican retreat, an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss both legislation and politics in the run-up to November's congressional elections, was scheduled to run until midday Friday.

President Donald Trump was due to attend on Thursday and Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday.

The US National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate the crash.

Rail safety under scrutiny

It was the second tragedy to hit congressional Republicans in the past year.

Last June, a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers were practising for an annual charity game against Democratic colleagues.

Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was severely wounded but has recovered and returned to work. He was not on the train.

While it was not immediately clear who was at fault in the Virginia collision, Amtrak's safety record has come under scrutiny after a series of recent incidents including the deadly derailment of a passenger train south of Seattle in December. In that crash, an engineer misread a signal and failed to slow the train, investigators said.