The float was one of two flatbed tractor-trailers carrying wounded veterans and their families to an honorary banquet during Show of Support’s “Hunt for Heroes” parade.
Midland, Texas Police have identified the four veteran killed when the train crashed in the wounded veterans parade float. We have included that list near the end of this article.
According to officials and witnesses as the last float in the parade tried to cross the Union Pacific West Texas railroad track, the eighty car eastbound train carrying double-stacked containers crashed into the flatbed float with wounded veteran aboard.
Two people died on the scene, while two others died at Midland Hospital. Police Chief Price Robinson told reporters that 17 people were transported to the hospital and 10 were treated and released. Four people were in stable condition and one is in critical condition as of this morning.
Joshua Michael, 34, was killed in the crash but was able to save his wife, according to a family member.
“He pushed his wife off the float — my daughter,” Mary Hefley told the newspaper. “He was that kind of guy. He always had a smile on his face. He would do for others before he would do for himself.”
About two dozen veterans and their spouses had been sitting in chairs on the float, set up on the back of a flatbed tractor-trailer decorated with American flags and signs identifying each veteran.
An AP report paints a vivid picture of panic sweeping through those seated on the trailer as the locomotive’s horn sounded, witnessed Patricia Howle, who was waiting at a nearby traffic light as the train approached.
Howle says her daughter cried “Momma, the train is coming!” tuning to look, Howle says she saw the trailer begin to cross the railroad tracks. Howle told reporters; “People were jumping off, trying to get off that trailer while thetruck was still rolling.
“People on the trailer saw the train coming and they were flying in every direction,” she added. “I covered my face. I didn’t want to see.”
Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said, as the train was sounding its horn and about to make impact, some people were able to jump off the truckescaping serious injury.
The float had two flat-bed trucks tied together, carrying veterans and their spouses, police said.
The first truck safely crossed the railroad tracks, but the second truck’s trailer was hit by the train. Police said.
Troops were among those participating in the parade, and were on the flatbedtruck that was hit, but a police spokesman couldn’t say how many of those killed or injured were in the military.
Lange also says the train itself is operational and its crew was not injured, adding they are being offered counseling.
Federal and local investigators studied the site where a freight train slammed into a parade float as the police department has confirmed the identities of the four fatal victims.
Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37 years old, and Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, were pronounced dead at the scene. Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43, died at Midland Memorial Hospital.
All the veterans were amputees, had been severely burned in combat or had suffered other severe wounds that left them disabled, said John Philbeck, president of a local veterans group.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching an investigation of the accident, and hoped to have some investigators on site late Thursday. A board spokeswoman didn’t provide any details about what happened.
Midland, located about 300 miles northwest of the capital, Austin, is a city with a population of about 100,000. Known for its high-rise office buildings, a legacy of its oil-drilling heritage, it boasts a petroleum museum and President George W. Bush’s childhood home.
Marge Langley, who has lived in Midland since 1954, said the last fatal accident at a train crossing in town that she could recall was “about 30 or 40 years ago when some teenagers on their lunch hour ran a stop sign.”
News of the accident reached some participants who were waiting at the Horseshoe Arena. “Some of the participants in the parade had already arrived in the banquet hall, and when word spread about the accident, you had 500 to 1,000 people in tears,” said Kirk Cleere, a drilling contractor from San Angelo, Texas, who was at the arena.
The planned festivities, which had included presenting veterans with rifles before a deer hunt, have all been canceled, said Mr. Cleere’s father, Sonny Cleere, a San Angelo businessman who helped organize some of the events.
“We have a benefactor, who chooses to remain anonymous, who was going to give each one of these heroes $2,000,” Sonny Cleere said. “We are now trying to see how we can provide financial assistance to the veterans and their families affected by this.”