(Midland, Texas – December 5, 2012)
A Texas Dept. of Transportation report, coupled with the Wednesday release of the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the November 15 Midland, TX wounded veterans’ parade train tragedy, continue to be news generators in the wake of the accident which killed four wounded warriors and injured 16 veterans, spouses and a police escort helping block traffic along the parade route when a Union Pacific freight train barreled into the procession at 62 mph.
Commenting on the two reports, Ohio-based railroad safety expert/forensic consultant Augustine “Gus” Ubaldi said that even though the speed limit for UP trains through Midland was increased from 40 mph to 70 mph in 2006, the warning system should have activated at its designed time regardless of a change in condition like a speed limit increase. “If the warning was designed to activate at 30 seconds, was it changed at some time to 20 seconds (the bare minimum allowed under Federal Railroad Administration regulations)? If so, the question is ‘why?’” questioned Ubaldi.
The corridor through Midland is a registered “Quiet Zone” which restricts locomotive engineers from blowing train horns except in emergency. The horn did not sound until the train was less than 10 seconds from impact, according to the NTSB report.
According to the TxDOT report, the Garfield/UPRR warning system was designed to activate at least 30 seconds before a train operating at any speed occupied the crossing under the 1991 signal plan approved by TxDOT and allegedly installed by Union Pacific.
“There’s no question that if this crossing was working as it was designed, that gate would have come down in front of the cab of the truck,” said Bob Pottroff, one of two attorneys currently representing four of the victims – two servicemen and their wives – in a lawsuit against both Union Pacific and Smith Industries, the owner of the flatbed semi-trailer truck used in the parade. “I don’t think there will be any good-faith argument to the contrary,” added the Manhattan, KS-based co-counsel, who is teaming with Lubbock, TX personal injury attorney Kevin Glasheen. Pottroff further commented, but would not elaborate, that “several others” of the victims, yet-unnamed, are poised to or already have joined in the legal action.
Meanwhile, “Show of Support”, the non-profit organization which sponsored the event which included the parade, founder Terry Johnson said last week that the event would continue next year, but was unsure as to what form it would take.