By Debbie Hersman
Yesterday afternoon in Midland, Texas, veterans were being honored with a parade, a banquet and a special “Hunt for Heroes.” During the parade, a Union Pacific freight train struck one of two flatbed semi-trailers serving as a parade float for the veterans at a grade-crossing. The float carried wounded veterans, their spouses and escorts. Officials in Midland reported four fatalities and numerous injuries.
At the same time we joined the rest of the nation in beginning to grieve for these heroes and their families, we also initiated a go-team launch to investigate the accident. Along with rail and highway safety investigators, Board Member Mark Rosekind is accompanying the team and will serve as spokesperson during the on-scene phase of the investigation. Over the coming days, our team will be working with local officials, the Federal Railroad Administration, Union Pacific and others to identify what happened and why.
Railroad grade crossings are ubiquitous across the American landscape — there are more than 219,000 U.S. grade crossings. Last year, 266 people died at highway grade crossings; that’s 266 too many. We know that at the core of our investigations are lives lived and lives lost. Our Midland investigation will search for the reasons for this crash so that we can help improve grade-crossing safety and prevent senseless tragedies like the one that occurred yesterday on Garfield Street.