Midland City Officials Decide Not to Charge Driver in Veteran’s Day Train Tragedy
(Midland, Texas – December 7, 2012)
Although Midland County could still initiate legal action against the truck driver in the November 15 parade for wounded warriors in the city’s annual “Show of Support” celebration, the city of Midland, TX announced Thursday that no charges would be levied against Dale Andrew Hayden, 50, of Midland, a veteran of two deployments to the Middle East himself, and spent most of Friday defending its action – or lack thereof.
Midland city spokesperson Sara Higgins said that, even though the police report remained unfinished, the city desired to “get it out” that the Permian Basin city’s police and legal authorities would not pursue charges against Hayden. She further said that the City’s reasons against filing charges would be explained in the completed police report, which she expects to be done by sometime next week.
After reviewing information and evidence from the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board had said Hayden, driving a Smith Industries flatbed semi-trailer truck at 5 mph and loaded with 12 wounded veterans and their wives in the parade, moved onto the Union Pacific Railroad track after the crossing lights began flashing, but before the crossing arm descended. The accident occurred in a registered “Quiet Zone” where locomotives do not sound their horns except in emergency, and it was not until the truck was occupying the crossing that the engineer sounded the train’s horn. But a report issued by the Texas Dept. of Transportation late in November showed that the warning devices were designed to activate 30 seconds before the train enters the crossing rather than the 20 seconds that the devices actually did.
However, Midland County Prosecutor Steve Stallings, who will be a recipient of a copy of the city’s report, said the district attorney’s office would review the report and make their own decisions on potential charges from the county’s jurisdiction.
“We do it all the time,” Stallings told the news media in regard to one entity declining to press charges while another decides the opposite. “If it (the report) establishes someone is criminally culpable we’ll present it to a grand jury. If we believe that an offense is a felony, sure we will (file charges).”
Hayden’s attorney, Hal Brockett, had not returned Midland Reporter-Telegram phone calls by press time, but Dallas-based attorney Douglas Fletcher, who represents Smith Industries, Hayden’s employer, told the Los Angeles Times that the tragic accident left Hayden “highly traumatized”, and that he had been the target of “hate mail”. Fletcher also said that Hayden had been placed in a Veterans’ Administration hospital in Big Spring, TX 72 hours after the accident.
NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said the agency had not talked to Hayden, but that “We have put in a request to interview the driver,” and that “He has not refused the interview, but he has not yet made himself available.”