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Officials are investigating a tragic incident in Midland, Texas, where four people were killed after a train hit a parade float with wounded veterans and their families. There are at least four dead and 17 others were sent to the hospital.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the float, on a flatbed truck, had been a part of the “Hunt for Heroes” parade. At around 4pm Thursday, a Union Pacific Corp. train with cargo containers slammed into the float.
The Associated Press reports that Midland city spokesman Ryan Stout said that Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37, and Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, were both declared dead at the scene. Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, and Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43, were pronounced dead after they were taken to Midland Memorial Hospital.
The parade had been sponsored by Show of Support, Military Hunt Inc., which supports local wounded veterans.
Around two dozen veterans and their families were on the float. Many of them tried to get off the float just before the train struck.
"I was on the phone, and I just started screaming," witness Patricia Howle told the AP. “The truck was on the other side of the train, but I did see the panic on the faces of the people and saw some of them jump off.”
“All of a sudden we heard a train horn, and we turned around to look behind us," Pam Shoemaker told the Wall Street Journal. “There wasn't any time. That train came. It was unexpected.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident. Pentagon spokesman George Little said that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta "was deeply saddened by news of the tragic accident involving veterans heroes and their spouses in Midland.”
“There is going to be a very thorough investigation,” Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange promised. “It's obviously a very tragic incident.”