NTSB Faults City, Parade Organization in 2012 Train Accident

Four people riding on the float were killed and five others were seriously injured, and eight passengers and a deputy sheriff received minor injuries in the November 2012 accident in Midland, Texas.

The National Transportation Safety Board agreed Nov. 5 that the city of Midland, Texas, and the parade organizer bear responsibility for the November 2012 grade-crossing accident in which a Union Pacific freight train struck a "Hunt for Heroes" parade float. Four people riding on the float were killed and five others were seriously injured, and eight passengers and a deputy sheriff received minor injuries. The driver of the truck pulling the float and two train crew members were unhurt, as were seven other float passengers.

The parade organizer, Show of Support, did not obtain a parade permit, but the city allowed the parade to take place anyway, something NTSB's investigators judged to indicate the "lax and informal manner" by which the parade was organized, approved, and executed.

The collision happened at 4:36 p.m., and the train was traveling at 62 miles per hour at the time. NTSB member Mark Rosekind stated early in the investigation that the float started crossing the tracks after the grade crossing's warning bells and lights had been activated and while the crossing gate was lowering.

"Had the parade organizer and the city of Midland created and followed a safety plan that included a requirement that railroads be notified of any parade route that crossed the tracks, the railroad may have arranged to halt train traffic, restrict train speeds, or provide a flagman, any one of which would likely have prevented the accident," according to the board's news release about the findings. It says the board looked at three other parade accidents this year in Bangor, Maine; Edmond, Okla.; and Damascus, Va., and determined that many U.S. communities and organizations do not conduct risk assessments and implement safety plans. The agency is calling for the development of guidelines for state and local officials to use in planning and operating parades and other special events.

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