Four are dead and another 17 were injured in the West Texas city of Midland as a freight train plowed into a float in the “Hunt For Heroes” parade yesterday afternoon.
The float was one of two 18-wheel trailers carrying wounded veterans and their families during the parade when a train approached, according to Hamid Vatankhah, a witness who owns a used car lot near the scene of the crash.
The first truck crossed the tracks in time, but the second did not, Vatankhah said, adding that sirens from the police cars in the parade may have drowned out the sound of the approaching train.
“Some people were able to jump, and some that were sitting in wheelchairs on top couldn’t do nothing about it,” Vatankhah said.
The floats in the Show of Support’s Hunt for Heroes parade were crossing Union Pacific train tracks at Garfield Street and Industrial Avenue en route to a Show of Support Banquet around 4:35 p.m. local time, according to ABC News affiliate KMID-TV.
A Union Pacific spokesman said the eastbound train was sounding its horn before the accident and the crossing gate and lights were working, according to The Associated Press.
Witnesses said the gate did not go down before the floats got to the tracks, KMID reported.
Of the dead, 37-year-old Army SGM Gary Stouffer and 47-year-old Army SGM Lawrence Boivin were pronounced dead at the scene and 34-year-old Army SGT Joshua Michael and 43-year-old Army SGM William Lubbers were later pronounced dead at Midland Memorial Hospital. As of 7:00am today, 10 victims have been treated and released but five victims remain at the hospital (four in stable, one in critical), and one is currently in critical condition at University Medical Center in Lubbock.
My own little town of Big Spring, about forty minutes from Midland, has a lot of veterans – it’s the location for a sizeable VA hospital – and several veterans both young and old are family friends. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all of those involved in this tragic incident, and to their families.