(Midland, Texas – November 28, 2012)
While more of those injured in the November 15 wounded veterans’ “Show of Support/Hunt for Heroes” parade accident, in which a Union Pacific freight train struck a float carrying veterans and their wives, consider joining with Sgt. Richard and Heather Sanchez in filing suit against both UPRR and Smith Industries of Midland, TX, which provided the semi-trailer truck used as the parade float, important documents regarding the Garfield Street/Union Pacific crossing were revealed by TXDOT yesterday.
The suit was filed Wednesday in order to preserve evidence involved in the tragedy which killed four wounded warriors and injured 16 more, many seriously.
“In our experience, the railroad has changed evidence or evidence has disappeared,” stated Lubbock-based personal injury attorney Kevin Glasheen, who is teaming with railroad accident attorney Bob Pottroff of Manhattan, KS in representing all four injured parade participants. The suit may be joined by other adversely-affected train/parade victims.
In other action regarding the Midland veterans’ parade accident, the Texas Dept. of Transportation released documents which showed the design of the Garfield Street/UPRR crossing protective system was intended to give more warning time than National Transportation Safety Board investigators said was given on November 15.
In an email by TXDOT Rail/Highway System Director Darin Kosmak, accompanying copies of both design plans for the UP/South Garfield Street intersection in Midland, was as a letter of agreement between TXDOT and UP in regard to the crossing.
The documents released by TXDOT Wednesday reveal that the design plans call for a 30-second warning time, 10 seconds longer than the 20 seconds NTSB’s investigation showed had been given the victims.
The letter of agreement states that “The railroad (UP) shall maintain and operate these highway-railroad grade crossing warning systems as installed and in accordance with the design of operation shown in the” design plans.
“While the anticipation is the (Union Pacific) has maintained the design of the signal circuitry as they have raised train speeds, we have not confirmed this information with” (UP), said Kosmak in the e-mail.
“This is huge,” said co-counsel Pottroff. “You add five or 10 seconds, and our driver has the gate come down in front of him. It’s a matter of life or death.”
In accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations 49 CFR, under which the Federal Railroad Administration operates, “The railroad shall maintain and operate these highway-railroad grade crossing warning systems as installed and in accordance with the design of operation as shown in the” design plans reported The San Antonio Express-News in an extensive article Wednesday.
Attorney Glasheen said that in order for the signals at Garfield Street to be able to provide a 30-second warning time for trains operating at the top timetable authorized speed of 70 mph, the circuits would have to extend 4,600 feet in advance of the crossing instead of the 1,642 feet that they actually do.
In a battle of e-mails, Union Pacific spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza-Williams claimed that “The TXDOT documents from 20 and 30 years ago do not reflect current conditions at the Garfield crossing.”
The NTSB, meanwhile, hopes to have a preliminary report on their investigation to date in about a week.