ALBEMARLE — After more than five hours of deliberation Wednesday, a jury found a truck driver not guilty in a fatal crash involving an Amtrak train carrying members of Congress.
Dana Naylor Jr., 31, initially was charged with involuntary manslaughter and maiming while under the influence after authorities said he drove a Time Disposal garbage truck onto train tracks on Jan. 31, 2018, and was struck by a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat in West Virginia.
The collision killed Chris Foley and severely injured Dennis Eddy, both of whom were passengers in the trash truck.
The DUI maiming charge was dropped Wednesday after being rendered moot by a judicial ruling Tuesday that certain scientific testimony and blood evidence was inadmissible.
After the verdict, Albemarle Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci said the judge’s decision to exclude evidence and testimony made it difficult for the prosecution to maintain the DUI charge.
It’s difficult to use toxicological evidence alone to establish impairment for various substances, he said, including Xanax and, in some cases, alcohol.
Though he clarified this was an important case to bring to the community, Tracci said he hoped for a remedy from state legislators on THC impairment.
“My hope is the General Assembly will look to establish a per se limit for THC impairment, the kind that exists in several states that have moved away from criminalizing marijuana,” he said.
A juror who asked not to be named said the initial jury vote found Naylor guilty by a vote of 10-2.
The only defense witness called, Amanda Snow, said she had lived near the site of the crash in Crozet for almost three years. The crossing gate arms malfunctioned regularly, she said, sometimes lowering for no reason.
In closing arguments, Tracci repeatedly argued that Naylor drove around lowered crossing-gate arms in an act of criminal negligence.
“If this isn’t criminal negligence, then I don’t know what is,” Tracci said at several points during the commonwealth’s closing argument.
Walking through most of the witness testimony and evidence via a PowerPoint presentation, Tracci implored the jury to find that Naylor acted with “callous disregard for human life” when he drove onto the train tracks.
Tracci said witness testimony had been “remarkably consistent” in regard to Naylor’s statement that he tried to beat the train but “wasn’t fast enough” and that the death and injury of his co-workers was “all his fault.”
In his closing argument, defense attorney William Tanner argued that though tragic, the crash did not meet the qualifications for involuntary manslaughter.
Naylor’s statements after the crash showed a natural guilt, Tanner said, and should not be taken as an admission that he knowingly drove in the way of the train.
After the jury announced its decision, Naylor and his family left the courtroom quickly and quietly, declining to comment as they walked out. Tanner also declined to comment.
Per guidelines, if found guilty, Naylor could have faced up to 10 years of incarceration. He still faces two civil suits filed by occupants of the Amtrak train.