Portsmouth man who survived Suffolk train crash recovering at home


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A Portsmouth man is recovering at home after his vehicle was hit by a train 10 days ago. 

The crash happened in downtown Suffolk as the man was heading to work. 

The family of Howard Vass gave 10 On Your Side an update on his recovery.

His wife, Shanequa Vass, said it’s a miracle he survived. He has a months-long recovery ahead of him so a fund has been set up to help while he’s out of work. 

Vass said the photos of her husband’s car are a startling reminder of how close she was to losing him.

“That really could’ve been a fatality,” she said.

Howard was driving to work around 5:00 in the morning on November 20. He crossed the train tracks at Liberty Street in downtown Suffolk when a Norfolk Southern train collided with his car.

Disoriented but alive, Howard called his wife.

“He said what he can remember is just kind of like patting and reaching down and realized his phone was still in his pocket so he wanted to let someone know as quickly as possible,” Vass said. “He was grimacing. You could tell he was in a lot of pain over the phone.”

First responders rushed Howard to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital where Vass reunited with him.

“He had several fractured ribs, vertebrae broken in his neck, lacerations to his liver and kidney,” Vass said, describing her husband’s injuries. “Of course, I was just so extremely grateful that he was still here.”

Howard also had a broken tibia and a collapsed lung. Amazingly, he left the hospital just five days after the crash.

“The pain is still significant as you can imagine but he’s progressing and he starts physical therapy (on Tuesday),” Vass said.

A close friend started a fund to help the family while Howard is on the mend. It’s already passed $5,000.

“It’s truly appreciated. My heart is full,” Vass said.

The family is grateful for the support and continued prayers.

“He definitely feels like he has a second chance at life,” Vass said.

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