Railroad investigators work the scene of an accident where four veterans were killed and 16 other people were injured when a train slammed into a parade float carrying the returning heroes to a banquet last Thursday in Midland, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Federal investigators were trying to determine whether the two-float parade had been given enough warning to clear the tracks. ([auth] AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)
MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A parade float that collided with a freight train, killing four military veterans, had crossed onto railroad tracks even though warning signals were going off, investigators said Saturday.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said the warning bells and signals at the West Texas track were activated 20 seconds before the accident. The second float didn’t go onto the track until several seconds later, just after the guardrail began lowering.
Four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were killed Thursday when the train slammed into the parade float in Midland. Sixteen people were injured.
Nine seconds before the crash, the train sounded its horn, a blaring that lasted four seconds, according to NTSB member Mark Rosekind. The guardrail hit the truck, and then the engineer pulled the emergency brake, trying to bring the train 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, and residents of a town whose history and even name are inextricably linked to the railroads that run through it, rushed to plan blood drives and candlelight vigils.