West Texas Rail Crossing Had 10 Previous Accidents

By JOAN LOWY | November 19, 2012

There were 10 previous collisions at the West Texas railroad crossing where a train slammed into a parade float carrying wounded veterans and their families, according to Federal Railroad Administration records reviewed by The Associated Press.

Five cars and five trucks have been struck by trains or rail equipment at the Garfield railroad crossing in Midland since 1979. Six drivers were injured in the accidents but there were no fatalities.

The trains involved in the previous collisions were moving slowly at the time – between 15 mph and 25 mph. The most recent incident was in December 1997 when a rail car moving at 5 mph struck a car crossing the tracks, injuring the driver.

Two cars and a tractor-trailer truck were struck by trains while the vehicles were stopped on the crossing. In the other incidents, the vehicles were in the process of crossing the tracks.

At least four veterans were killed and 16 other people were injured Thursday when a train struck a tractor-trailer truck towing the float that was stopped on the crossing. The truck was towing the float to a banquet to honor the veterans.

Texas had 822 railroad crossing accidents during the three years ending in December 2011, or 9.8 percent of crossing accidents nationally, according to the railroad administration. That was more than any other state during the period. California was second with 506 accidents, or 6 percent of the national total.

The Garfield crossing was equipped with two gates, pavement markings and railroad crossing symbols, train signals and a bell, records show. There was no highway stop sign.

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