Train Crashes Into Midland Float, Kills 4 Veterans

Here’s one of the worse collision cases I’ve ever read about: a parade float carrying decorated veterans was hit by a freight train in Midland on Thursday, tragically killing four of our heroes and injuring 16 other people.

How did this nightmare happen? How could these brave soldiers survive combat in Iraq and Afghanistan — and not a parade in a Texas city? This makes me angry. The collision should never have happened. And I don’t know why more than 1,000 people die and many more are injured in 6,000+ preventable railroad crossing accidents each year — with 800 here in Texas. As a personal injury attorney, I have a lot of questions about Midland:

Was the train travelling at an excessive speed? Its black box shows that it was traveling 62 miles an hour at impact.Why was the locomotive going so fast? Did it always travel through Midland at this speed and, if so, why? How fast had it been going one minute before? Five seconds before? One second before? I recently won an 18 wheeler case when I proved the semi driver didn’t apply his brakes until one second before the crash.

When did the conductor first see the float? When did he apply his brakes? What kind of brakes were they? Were they well maintained? When had they last been inspected?When did the train first sound its horn? For how long? What are the results of the event recorder? Were the train’s lights on? From how far were they visible? How much did the train slow down? How old was the train? When had it last been repaired? How experienced was its crew? How many hours that day and that week had it worked? Was the conductor paying attention to the traffic in front of him? How many prior accidents had occurred at this crossing?

Were the crossing guard alarms, gates and lights functioning? What was the timing sequence? The NTSB reports that the float driver had at least 20 seconds of warning time after bells sounded – was that sufficient? When did the float driver see the arms coming down, see the lights, and hear the train horn? Did he? Did police sirens drown out the train horn as some witnesses have said? What was the track profile? Did the incline to the top of the tracks contribute to the crash? Did the two roads parallel to the tracks and traffic snarl traffic? Did the driver of the float try to beat the crossing arms coming down? Why didn’t he stop at the tracks? How did the float in front of him cross? How close was he to the first float? Had he driven a tractor carrying a float before?

How many police and city officials were supervising the parade? What plans had been filed? Were they being followed? Had any one checked the daily train schedule? Had any one discussed what would happen if a train came through?

Obviously,somewhere there was a failure,” said Midland Fire Department Engineer David Stacy. “Whether it’s a failure of equipment or a failure of planning, I’m sure there’s going to be outrage and somebody’s going to sue somebody.” One of the surviving veterans has already hired an attorney.

My prayers go out to the deceased soldiers and their loved ones:

Lawrence Boivin, age 47, retired from U.S. Army – sergeant major after 24 years; wounded in Iraq on April 26, 2004; awarded Silver Star and Purple Heart.

William L. Lubbers, age 43, active duty U.S. Army – sergeant major with 24 years of service; wounded in Afghanistan on Oct. 8, 2005; awarded Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars.

Joshua Michael, age 34, retired from U.S. Army – sergeant after 10 years of service; wounded three times in Iraq in January, April and September 2006; awarded two Purple Hearts.

Gary Stouffer, age 37, active duty with U.S. Marine Corps – chief warrant officer with 17 years of service; wounded in Afghanistan in 2010; Purple Heart award pending.

May God rest your souls. And may we stop this mayhem from continuing to happen.

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