The National Transportation Safety Board describes last year’s fatal crash involving a train and a flatbed transporting wounded military veterans in a parade in Midland, Texas, as a “perfect storm of adverse circumstances” and does not fault the truck driver.
NTSB officials met Tuesday, Nov. 5, to discuss various factors involved in the crash that left four people dead and five more seriously injured on Nov. 15, 2012, after the flatbed being pulled by trucker Dale Hayden was struck by a Union Pacific train traveling at 62 mph.
Officials said Hayden was hampered by the excitement of the parade and told investigators he had an expectation of safety while being escorted by police along the parade route.
“The presence of law enforcement blocking traffic and escorting the float created an expectation of right of way throughout the parade route and decreased the perception of hazards on the part of the driver,” an NTSB official stated during opening remarks of the webcast meeting.
“He saw flashing lights, but did not assign any special meaning to them. He described them as ‘just more flashing lights’ – a reference to the multiple flashing lights from emergency vehicles in the parade. Staff found the driver’s statement to be very telling,” the official stated. “His comprehension of those warning lights was hampered by the parade environment.”
Another NTSB official, Robert Summer, called the incident a “perfect storm of adverse circumstances.”
A preliminary report filed by the NTSB in May cited confusion by a number of people involved in the parade.
During the Nov. 5 webcast, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman went further, saying said the event planners and the community should have been better prepared and should have been in contact with Union Pacific.
“We don’t particularly fault the driver, and there’s been a lot of conversation about why that doesn’t happen,” Hersman said, “but we are faulting, in some way by identifying them in the approximate cause and the probable cause, the community and the organizers for a lack of planning.”
A grand jury decided in January not to indict the trucker, who is himself a military veteran.
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