Midland, TX- More victims have joined a civil lawsuit against Union Pacific following a train accident that killed four military veterans and injured over a dozen others. Dueling lawsuits have caused city lawmakers to pass new ordinances regarding parades and other events.
The accident took place last fall during a Veterans Day parade when a float, which was stopped on train tracks at a crossing, was struck by an oncoming train. Four veterans were killed, and at least 16 other people were injured. Some of the injuries were so severe that some victims lost limbs, were paralyzed and other are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a report by KCBD, local NBC affiliate.
The lawsuit was amended this week after five families decided to join the lawsuit. There are separate lawsuits filed by victims in Dallas, but Union Pacific is trying to have those cases moved to Midland.
Almost two dozen victims of that accident have joined a lawsuit against Union Pacific, which operated the train, and Smith Industries, the company that owns the truck carrying the parade participants. In response, Union Pacific filed a lawsuit against the City of Midland and Smith Industries. Union Pacific believes Smith Industries should be required to pay part of any settlements resulting from the civil trial.
Following the accident a number of witnesses said the warning signals never went off, but others said they could see the crossing arms extended over the bed of the truck. The NTSB was dispatched to Midland to determine the cause of this tragedy.
The NTSB investigation into the cause of the accident revealed that there was only a 20-second warning ahead of the train when there should have been a 30-second warning. Federal regulations only require a 20-second warning time, and Union Pacific has pointed to human error are the cause of the accident. But attorneys representing the plaintiffs assert that a longer warning signal would have prevented the tragedies.
Last month, union Pacific announced they would change the signal circuitry to increase the crossing time.
A grand jury in Midland refused to prosecute the driver of the truck Dale Andrew Hayden, who was also injured, the Odessa American said. Hayden entered the crossing 8 seconds after the warning bells and lights went off.
The parade organizers failed to get a permit so the City of Midland changed their laws regarding permits. The biggest change includes an ordinance that prohibits the city from issuing a permit for a parade that crosses train tracks, instead organizers will have to ask the railroad company for permission and show that to the city, Mayor Wes Perry told KCBD. Organizer of an event will also have to obtain insurance which relieve the city of any liability if there is a negligent accident.
The civil trial will begin in April of 2014 and is expected to last a few weeks. A case of this magnitude will take a great deal of time to build.