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Deadly Texas parade on usual route

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, 9:40 p.m.

MIDLAND, Texas — Organizers of a parade in West Texas in which four military veterans were killed when a train plowed into a truck had been using the same route for three years, investigators said on Sunday.

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Mark Rosekind also announced that oilfield services company Smith Industries was the owner of the truck that served as the float on which the veterans were riding during Thursday's parade in Midland.

Rosekind said the company was cooperating with investigators, who expect to interview the unidentified driver on Monday.

Rick B. Smith, Smith Industries' CEO and president, did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

Investigators have said the truck began crossing the train tracks, even though warning bells were sounding and lights were flashing. It was the second of two parade floats filled with wounded war veterans. The first float had cleared the tracks when the crash happened.

Four veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were killed and 16 other people were hurt.

According to the NTSB, the warning system was activated 20 seconds before the accident, and the guardrail began to come down seven seconds after that. Rosekind said everything functioned properly, but that investigators would have to make sure the signal timing met the requirements for that crossing.

Some Midland residents said they believe the signal time is too short and that the guardrails are not completely down when a train comes whizzing by.

“The signals come on and the arms go down, but before they are fully down, the train is already at the intersection,” said Mark Thomas, who lives blocks from the track and says he crosses it daily.

The parade was organized by a group called Show of Support-Hunt for Heroes and has been an annual event in Midland for nine years. It was supposed to be the start of a three-day weekend of events in appreciation of the veterans' service.

According to the NTSB, the train sounded its horn nine seconds before the crash. The guardrail hit the truck, and then the engineer pulled the emergency brake, trying to stop the train that was traveling at 62 mph.

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