MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — The truck that was used as a parade float involved a horrific train crash in West Texas that killed four U.S. military veterans was donated for the event, organizers said Sunday.
Investigators say the truck began crossing the train tracks even though warning bells were sounding and lights were flashing. It was the second of two parade floats filled with wounded war veterans. The first float had already cleared the tracks when the accident happened.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a timeline of the accident Saturday, based on information from cameras and data recorders.
"Once the crossing becomes active, people should stop," lead investigator Robert Accetta with the NTSB said.
The parade Thursday was organized by a group called Show of Support and was an annual event in Midland for nine years.
Investigators have not identified the driver of the float. Show of Support spokesman Michael McKinney said only that the truck was donated but did not identify the owner.
Part of the investigation includes whether the group had the proper permit.
Nine seconds before the crash, the train sounded its horn, a blaring that lasted four seconds, according to NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind. The guardrail hit the truck, and then the engineer pulled the emergency brake, trying to bring the train that was traveling at 62 mph to a screeching halt.
Some people tried to jump off the float, witnesses said. Four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were killed and 16 more people were injured.
The NTSB said no mechanical problems were found with the cars or the tracks, and the train's maintenance history was clean. Investigators will try to establish on Monday what the engine could have seen as it approached the truck, Rosekind said.
Railroads are a vital part of Midland, a town that sits in the heart of Texas' oil rich Permian basin. Three or four railroad tracks lie within city limits. The city is listed as having nearly 114,000 residents, but residents and officials believe the population has risen significantly with the growth of the oil industry.
The veterans were on their way to a banquet in their honor and were being cheered by a flag-waving crowd when the accident happened.
Killed were Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer, 37; Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34; and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43.
Two of the injured were still at a Midland hospital Sunday afternoon, one in critical condition and another in stable condition.
Associated Press writers Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston; Danny Robbins in Dallas; Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth, Texas, contributed to this report.