A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board reveals statistical details on the train-truck collision that killed four wounded veterans in a Midland parade last month.
The NTSB said investigators still have not been able to interview the traumatized truck driver, who is himself a 50-year-old veteran.
The report said the train was operated by a 35-year-old engineer and a 27-year-old conductor. Investigators said four locomotives and 84 loaded cars were barreling through Midland at 62 miles an hour.
A Peterbilt truck tractor entered the crossing at 5 miles an hour, hauling the flatbed trailer with a dozen wounded vets and their wives.
A Lubbock attorney representing several survivors in a lawsuit against Union Pacific railroad told News 8 the most important information is not in the preliminary report.
Kevin Glasheen said the sensor that triggers the crossing arms and warnings is too close to the intersection to provide a sufficient alert to motorists.
According to the NTSB, after the engineer sounded the horn and set the brakes in emergency mode, it still took 4,143 feet — roughly four-fifths of a mile — to stop the freight train.
Union Pacific released a statement saying the crossing meets Federal Railroad Administration guidelines, with 20 seconds of warning time.
UP adds that the crossing also changed the street light to red 10 seconds before the crossing signal activated.
The company statement says, unfortunately, the truck driver went through the red light and then the crossing signal.
As the NTSB confirmed, the Garfield crossing signal met the FRA requirement of 20 seconds. Additionally, that crossing is designed to trigger the traffic light before the crossing to turn red ten seconds before the crossing signals are activated. Unfortunately, the truck driver proceeded through both the red light at the traffic intersection and the active signals at the crossing.
Following is the link to the results published from the US DOT's most recent 10-year study, which found 94 percent of all grade crossing accidents are caused by risky driver behavior. They studied accident reports that showed motorists failed to stop at grade crossings or drove around activated automatic gates.
Safety is a top priority for Union Pacific, which focuses public safety efforts on urging drivers to stop for trains and enforcing laws that are in place to keep communities safe. These include:
- Employees who provide rail safety presentations to professional drivers and the general public through Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization dedicating to eliminating the number of rail-related incidents. Union Pacific’s public safety team reached out to Smith Industries and provided a driver safety training presentation at Smith Industries on September 22, 2011.
- Media safety campaigns aimed at professional drivers in communities influenced by the oil and gas industry, which can increase the number of semi-truck traffic traveling over the tracks. The campaign’s messaging and images remind drivers to follow traffic laws. The bilingual media safety campaigns include billboards, posters, gas station pump toppers and online ads. One of these campaigns was rolled out in the Midland-Odessa area in April 2012. Attached is a pdf file with the artwork that was used in this area.
- Working with law enforcement agencies to ensure that drivers are following laws that are in place to keep the public safe. We partnered with law enforcement agencies throughout Texas to conduct 110 enforcement operations across the state just this year. This is where officers monitor driver behavior and issue citations to drivers who violate rail related traffic laws. The Midland Police Department participated in an enforcement operation that included the Garfield Street crossing on September 25, 2012.