FreightCar America shooting survivor shares his story

Local News

A survivor of Tuesday’s deadly shooting at FreightCar America says he was just starting what seemed like a typical day at work before chaos erupted. 

“That morning, it was feeling like our regular routine,” said Travis Valderrama, a welder at FreightCar America who was injured in the shooting. “We come here before 6:00, we clock in, we have our meeting.” 

According to authorities, a gunman killed one person and injured three others at the facility before turning the gun on himself. 

Valderrama and other employees laid a wreath outside the building in honor of Daniel Brown, who was killed in the shooting.  

“He was the type of man that – when he’s ready for work, he’s ready,” Valderrama said. “He’s not waiting on you, no matter what.”

Valderrama said he was just starting his shift when he noticed someone coming quickly towards a back door. He said he didn’t recognize the person and assumed it was an employee running late.

That’s when he heard gunshots.

“I thought he hit me,” Valderrama said. “I took off running between two cars. I rode across a metal crate, out the side door and all the way up to the main office.”

Valderrama said a bullet grazed his chest. Company leaders held a meeting Thursday morning about the shooting, Valderrama said, and he returned to the facility to attend that meeting.  

It has been a tough few days for some of his colleagues, he said. 

“One guy – he was devastated that Daniel was gone,” Valderrama said. He was broken down. And I understand. He said he worked with Daniel for six years.”

Valderrama said he now hopes FreightCar America upgrades security at the facility.

“Anybody can come in at any time in the morning,” he said. 

Valderrama said he already saw a step-up in security Thursday morning, which included police presence outside the facility and a security guard at an entrance.

“When I was coming in, they did have a security guard at the end of the bridge checking bags, so that was kind of good,” he said. 

Valderrama said he has worked for FreightCar America for three years and won’t let the shooting stand in his way of continuing his career there. He plans to return to work within the next two to three weeks, he added. 

“I was staring at the back door, just staring, and hoping it wouldn’t happen again,” Valderrama said. “But it’ll be hard for me. But I’m not going to let this bother me.” 

As for the other two victims injured in Tuesday’s shooting, one person was released from the hospital on Thursday, while the other remains in serious condition, according to officials at Carilion Clinic. 

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