Railroad will allow track, signal tests in Texas crash probe

SAN ANGELO, Texas Fri Dec 7, 2012 9:57pm EST

Related Topics

SAN ANGELO, Texas (Reuters) - The Union Pacific Railroad will allow attorneys representing victims of a train crash that killed four wounded U.S. military veterans in Texas to conduct their own tests of tracks, signals and a locomotive horn, a lawyer for the victims said on Friday.

"They gave us what we asked for without the necessity of the court ordering," attorney Kevin Glasheen said.

Four veterans were killed and at least 14 people were injured when a Union Pacific freight train slammed into a parade float at a railroad crossing in Midland, Texas, last month.

The collision occurred at the start of a weekend of festivities to honor veterans wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Some of the veterans injured in the crash have sued Union Pacific and Smith Industries, the Midland-based company that owns the truck that was pulling the trailer that a dozen war-wounded veterans and their wives were riding on.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs will also be allowed to inspect the truck.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the company would provide a locomotive to go over the crossing in question and that it was cooperating with plaintiffs' attorneys.

The lawsuit accuses Union Pacific of failing to provide a safe crossing or a proper signal warning of an approaching train. It also says the truck driver failed to exercise reasonable care for his passengers.

Attorneys for the victims say the truck should have had 30 seconds of warning time, but only had 20. "We think that the root cause of the accident is the short warning time," Glasheen said.

Espinoza said the truck had driven onto the track 8 seconds after signals began operating, citing National Transportation Safety Board information released late last month.

"We want to be as transparent as possible, but we still think it's important to focus on NTSB's timeline," Espinoza said.

Midland Police has no plans to file charges against the driver of the truck, Dale Andrew Hayden, 50, at this time, city spokeswoman Sara Higgins said.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Richard Sanchez, an Army sergeant who pushed his wife to safety during the crash and sustained a spinal cord fracture that has left him with no feeling or movement in his legs, Glasheen said.

Police have identified the dead as Marine Chief Warrant Officer Gary Stouffer, 37; Army Sergeant Major Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sergeant Major William Lubbers, 43; and Army Sergeant Joshua Michael, 34.

(Reporting By Matthew Waller; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Xavier Briand)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
Robert76 wrote:
This is a very sad matter, but if the truck entered the crossing 8 seconds after the crossing signal started (as reported in this story), wouldn’t the railroad then be blameless. I believe the law says you do not pass activated signals and you do not enter a crossing after the signals have activated. Just saying.

Dec 07, 2012 10:27pm EST  --  Report as abuse
arttie wrote:
I totally agree, Robert. It is without a doubt a very sad occurrence, but the signals were working and the driver of the truck is obviously at fault. I don’t know why they spend so much time looking everywhere else. I can imagine, though, that the attorneys representing the dead and injured are looking to recoup a huge amount of award money on this. I can also imagine that they see no hope of recovering it from the truck driver, so go after the deep pockets, right? Ridiculous.

Dec 08, 2012 12:47am EST  --  Report as abuse
Jim_Dandy wrote:
I’ll bet the NTSA has already tested the signals.

Dec 08, 2012 7:14am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.