In the early afternoon on Oct. 11, a logging truck driven by Danny Lee Kimble of Bartow, collided with the Cheat Mountain Salamander passenger train at the Cheat Mountain Bridge and Route 250 in southern Randolph County.
Kimble, 38, was pronounced dead at the scene. Bartow-Frank-Durbin (BFD) fire chief Buster Varner says, “The front of the logging truck, normally eight feet long, was crushed to only two feet and it took more than three hours to remove Kimble’s body.”
Randolph County emergency services director Jim Wise was the first to confirm the fatality and said, “It was a pretty good impact,” and he knew of no other previous accident at that crossing.
Randolph County Sherriff Mark Brady explained to the Associated Press (AP), “At this juncture of the investigation, it appears that the log truck ran through the still flashing crossing signals and struck the passenger cars of the train.” He added, “All 63 passengers and the crew members were taken to Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins.”
Hospital spokeswoman Tracy Faith told AP that 23 people were treated for injuries, with six people being hospitalized in serious condition and two in stable condition. Some of the admitted were later transferred to a Morgantown hospital. She declined to comment on the nature of the injuries. Faith did say that 42 others transported by school bus from the accident scene were found to be unharmed and received comfort care.
The Durbin and Greenbrier Railroad operates several trains in the area. The Cheat Mountain Salamander runs Tuesdays through Saturdays in October for fall color excursions along a boulder-strewn river. Sandy Burky, director of Passenger Services, says there were three passenger cars on the 88 mile trip that reaches more than 4,000 feet elevation. The train travels about 25 miles per hour.
Sylvia Rosenau, of Parsons, was a passenger in one of the two cars upset in the collision. She says, “Just as I turned my head from the river, I saw the truck coming and knew it was going to hit. The next thing I knew, I was sitting on the window of the train because the car had tipped over. Blood was coming out of both of my legs.”Her legs were apparently cut on the metal of the seat across from her. Rosenau said, “My mouth hit the back of the seat and I have lacerations inside my mouth on the lip.”
Rosenau was treated and released by Davis Memorial Hospital. This was her second train ride, having gone on a short trip to Philippi several years ago and she says, “I was enjoying my trip immensely.”