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It was the second of two floats carrying veterans in Thursday's parade in Midland. The first was exiting the tracks when the warning bells and signals were activated, 20 seconds before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The second float didn't enter the tracks until several seconds after the warning system went off, the NTSB said. By that time, the guardrail was lowering.
"Once the crossing becomes active, people should stop," lead investigator Robert Accetta with the NTSB said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
The timeline was pieced together by combining information from a video camera mounted on the front of the train, another one on a sheriff's car and a data recorder that acts like an airplane's black box, activating when the train blared the horn, NTSB member Mark Rosekind said.
Nine seconds before the crash, the train sounded its horn, a blaring that lasted four seconds, according to Rosekind. The guardrail hit the truck, then the engineer pulled the emergency brake, trying to bring the train that was traveling at 62 mph to a screeching halt.
WASHINGTON - The National Transportation Safety Board cited bad planning by city and parade officials as the probable cause of last November's deadly collision of a freight train and a veterans' parade float in Midland.
Having already been ushered through several red lights by police in the 34 minutes since the parade began, the driver of the float thought nothing of continuing the procession across the tracks, despite the red lights at the signal. The float had nearly cleared the tracks when the freight train slammed into its back corner at 62 mph.
At the time, the driver missed many of the early warnings of the oncoming train because of several factors, one being that the float in front of him had been blowing a train whistle throughout the parade.
Rather than assigning blame to the driver of the float or to the railroad, the board found that it was in fact poor planning, a "lack of traffic signal cues" alerting law enforcement to an approaching train and the driver's expectation of police protection that had led the man and his passengers into danger.
The board determined that "the probable cause of this collision was the failure of the city of Midland and the parade organizer, 'Show of Support, Military Hunt, Inc.,' to identify and mitigate the risks associated with routing a parade through a highway-railroad grade crossing."
The city of Midland issued a statement, saying it has substantially changed the planning process for such events, but "more work" remains to be done.