LIVE VIDEO: WTLV Live Video_1    Watch
 

U.S. veterans leapt seconds before train hit parade

9:41 AM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
  • Share
  • Print
  • - A A A +

MIDLAND, Texas -- Wounded U.S. military veterans leapt for their lives just before a freight train struck their parade in rural Texas, killing four people and injuring 17, and federal officials rushed to the scene Friday to piece together why it happened.

About two dozen veterans and their spouses had been sitting in chairs on the parade float, set up on the back of a flatbed truck decorated with American flags. Many seemed to panic as the train's horn sounded, said Patricia Howle, who was waiting in her car at a nearby traffic light.

"I was on the phone, and I just started screaming," she told The Associated Press after Thursday afternoon's crash. "The truck was on the other side of the train, but I did see the panic on the faces of the people and saw some of them jump off."

Police said the first truck with veterans safely crossed the tracks, but the second truck's trailer was still on the crossing as the Union Pacific locomotive approached.

The U.S. marked Veterans Day earlier this week, and the parade was part of an event to honor wounded veterans.

A preliminary investigation indicates the crossing gate and lights were working, said Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange, though he didn't know if the train crew saw the float approaching.

"There is going to be a very thorough investigation," Lange said. "It's obviously a very tragic incident." He said the train crew did not sustain any injuries but would be offered counseling.

Two people died at the scene, while two others died at Midland Memorial Hospital, City of Midland spokesman Ryan Stout said. Six people remained hospitalized Thursday night, including at least one in critical condition. The other 11 injured were treated and released, hospital officials said.

"It was a horrible accident to watch happen right in front of me," said Daniel Quinonez, who was in traffic that had been stopped to allow the parade to pass. "I just saw the people on the semi-truck's trailer panic, and many started to jump off the trailer. But it was too late for many of them because the train impacted the trailer so fast," he said.

The events were organized by Show Of Support, a local veterans group. Its president, Terry Johnson, did not immediately return an email for comment and his phone number was unlisted. The phone rang unanswered at the group's offices.

The veterans were going to be treated to a deer-hunting trip this weekend. The event was canceled.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta "was deeply saddened by news of the tragic accident involving veterans heroes and their spouses in Midland," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

Associated Press

Most Watched Videos