Officials: Vets' float crossed track after signals - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Officials: Vets' float crossed track after signals

Posted: Updated:

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) - A parade float filled with wounded veterans that collided with a freight train had crossed onto the railroad tracks after warning signals were going off, investigators said Saturday.

Four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were killed and 16 more people were injured when the train crashed into the flatbed truck in West Texas.

It was the second of two floats carrying veterans in Thursday's parade in Midland. The first was exiting the tracks when the warning bells and signals were activated, 20 seconds before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The second float didn't enter the tracks until several seconds after the warning system went off, the NTSB said. By that time, the guardrail was lowering.

"Once the crossing becomes active, people should stop," lead investigator Robert Accetta with the NTSB said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

The timeline was pieced together by combining information from a video camera mounted on the front of the train, another one on a sheriff's car and a data recorder that acts like an airplane's black box, activating when the train blared the horn, NTSB member Mark Rosekind said.

Nine seconds before the crash, the train sounded its horn, a blaring that lasted four seconds, according to Rosekind. The guardrail hit the truck, then the engineer pulled the emergency brake, trying to bring the train that was traveling at 62 mph to screeching halt.

People on the first float and dozens of others who had come out to greet the veterans shrieked and watched in shock, as some aboard the truck tried to jump off, witnesses said. The veterans' military instincts kicked in as they treated the wounded.

A candlelight vigil was being held Saturday evening.

The NTSB has also interviewed the engineer and conductor, and established the train's air brakes were working, Rosekind said. No mechanical problems were found with the cars. A review of the train's maintenance history found no defects, he added. The tracks also had no problems.

Investigators will try to establish on Monday what the engine could have seen as it approached the truck, Rosekind said.

Part of the investigation includes whether the parade had the proper permit. The parade has been an annual event in Midland for nine years, but City Manager Courtney Sharp declined to say whether the group, Show of Support/Hunt for Heroes, had the necessary paperwork to hold the event.

Railroads, though, are a vital part of Midland, a town that sits in the heart of Texas' oil rich Permian basin. Three or four tracks lie within city limits, and the site of the accident is just about 10 minutes from downtown, said Midland spokesman Ryan Stout.

That's considered when the city grants permits for parades and other events, Sharp said.

"We take all steps into consideration when we permit," he said. "I hate to go down that track until all of the investigation is over, but yes we do take that stuff into account."

The veterans were on their way to a banquet in their honor and were being cheered by a flag-waving crowd. It was supposed to be the start of a three-day weekend of banquets, deer hunting and shopping in appreciation of the veterans' sacrifice.

Killed were Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer, 37; Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34; and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43.

Five people remained hospitalized early Saturday. In Midland, three people were in stable condition and one in critical. None of the injuries are life-threatening, said hospital spokeswoman Marcy Madrid. A fifth person who was transferred to a Lubbock hospital shortly after the accident is in serious condition.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the speed limit in that area was raised from 40 mph to 70 mph in 2006.

  • Top StoriesMore>>

  • French Ambassador visits NW Ohio

    French Ambassador visits NW Ohio

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 10:35 PM EDT2014-04-24 02:35:58 GMT
    French Ambassador to the United States, Francois Delattre and Congressman Bob Latta made their way around Northwest Ohio Wednesday, as part of a cultural and diplomatic visit to the area.First Findlay, then the Glass City."We, France, are among the leading foreign investors in Ohio and especially in northwest Ohio," Ambassador Delattre said.France and Ohio have a strong partnership, one Congressman Latta calls meaningful."It's very important, not just because of our cultural ties, but our eco...
    French Ambassador to the United States, Francois Delattre and Congressman Bob Latta made their way around Northwest Ohio Wednesday, as part of a cultural and diplomatic visit to the area.First Findlay, then the Glass City."We, France, are among the leading foreign investors in Ohio and especially in northwest Ohio," Ambassador Delattre said.France and Ohio have a strong partnership, one Congressman Latta calls meaningful."It's very important, not just because of our cultural ties, but our eco...
  • Vigil planned for 4 boaters lost on fishing trip

    Vigil planned for 4 boaters lost on fishing trip

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:11 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:11:33 GMT
    Friends and family are gathering to remember four people who went on a fishing trip and never returned. Amy Santus, 33, and her niece, Paige Widmer, 16, were found dead last week. Bryan Huff and Andrew Rose are still missing. Friends and family will hold a vigil at Turtle Point Marina this Friday in their honor.
    Friends and family are gathering to remember four people who went on a fishing trip and never returned. Amy Santus, 33, and her niece, Paige Widmer, 16, were found dead last week. Bryan Huff and Andrew Rose are still missing. Friends and family will hold a vigil at Turtle Point Marina this Friday in their honor.
  • Rossford students get pre-prom reality check on drunk driving

    Rossford students get pre-prom reality check on drunk driving

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 8:01 PM EDT2014-04-24 00:01:54 GMT
    Rossford High School students got a reality check about the dangers of drinking and driving three days before their prom.
    Rossford High School students got a reality check about the dangers of drinking and driving three days before their prom.

Area Events Calendar

See It, Shoot It, Send It!