(Midland, Texas – December 17, 2012)
A month and two days after a Union Pacific freight train tragically interrupted the annual Midland, TX “Show of Support” parade for wounded veterans, when it struck the second of two semi-trailer flatbed trucks, each loaded with a dozen veterans and their wives, being used as parade floats, killing four wounded warriors and injuring another 16 vets and spouses, attorneys, legal teams and railroad safety experts gathered Monday from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.at Midland’s Garfield Street crossing of UPRR rails to inspect what was believed to be an incorrectly operating crossing protective system.
Regardless of the fact that the crossing signals activated 20 seconds before the 62 mph train struck the flatbed trailer truck, documents released by the Texas Dept. of Transportation two weeks ago show that the warning time was supposed to give 30 seconds of notification of an approaching train.
Attorneys Kevin Glasheen of Lubbock, TX and Bob Pottroff of Manhattan, KS are representing several victims of the accident, and obtained the opportunity to have their teams inspect the operational aspects of the crossing protective system through agreement with Union Pacific. “We’re trying to determine why the lights and gates only gave a 20 second warning when they were designed to give a 30 second warning,” explained Glasheen.
But UPRR Public Information Officer Raquel Espinoza told KWES-TV News 9 reporter Geena Martinez that a red light was given 30 seconds before the train entered the crossing, and that active warning signals began 20 seconds before the crash, which Espinoza said still met (minimum) federal standards.
Espinoza said the signals are maintained and inspected on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, with the last inspection before the November 15 tragedy was on October 18.
Glasheen told Midland Reporter-Telegram writer Joseph Basco that “We know there were numerous unapproved modifications to the system since it was designed and approved in 1992,” citing the fact that the signal controller was replaced with a different make and model than the one originally installed.
The attorney further explained that the attorneys’ team will utilize the data collected to conduct computer modeling and produce, within six to nine months, a report regarding the cause of the signal system’s shorter-than-designed warning.
“Until all the evidence is in, our experts are not able to give a theory for the short warning,” Glasheen concluded.
But UP’s Espinoza told Basco that she was unsure as to why the Glasheen-Pottroff team is going after UP and semi-trailer truck owner Smith Industries, but no other party, obviously meaning the city of Midland. If the spokeswoman was critical of the city for not having a parade permit for the event, the issue had already been addressed by attorney Pottroff, who said “They (the city) knew it was going to happen, because there was a police escort. This process (the parade permitting) doesn’t have anything to do with crossing safety.”
“(The lawyers) and the community should allow the National Transportation Safety Board to do the investigation with the evidence provided so far,” stated the UP spokeswoman.
The attorneys and inspectors were scheduled to move to Fort Worth, TX following Monday’s Midland activity, for a Tuesday inspection of the exact locomotive that was involved in the tragedy.