Texas Float Driver Won’t Face Charges in Train Crash

By BETSY BLANEY | January 11, 2013

A grand jury on Wednesday declined to indict the driver of a float involved in a train collision that killed four U.S. military veterans in a West Texas parade.

Dale Andrew Hayden, the driver of the truck pulling the float, will not face charges stemming from the Nov. 15 accident that killed four veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sixteen other people were injured.

The 12-person grand jury “has not concluded its review of the incident,” according to a news release issued by Midland County District Attorney Teresa Clingman. It wasn’t clear what that could mean, but the grand jury did not indict Hayden and Midland police already have said they don’t plant to pursue criminal charges against him. Clingman declined to comment further.

The veterans were riding on a flatbed truck that was hit by a Union Pacific train traveling at 62 mph. The truck was the second float in a parade organized to honor wounded veterans and their wives.

The accident remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Hayden was placed under a physician’s care and got counseling in the days after the crash, his attorney, Hal Brockett has said.

Hayden, who has a military career spanning more than three decades, works as a truck driver for Smith Industries, an oilfield services company. The company placed Hayden on medical leave after the accident. Brockett said Hayden is back at work.

“I’m almost embarrassed to say I’m relieved,” Brockett said Wednesday after the grand jury’s decision. “I didn’t think it was a grand jury matter, but I don’t want to minimize the effect on Dale and the people who died and were injured out there.”

According to the NTSB, the railroad crossing warning system was activated 20 seconds before the accident, and the guardrail began to come down seven seconds after that. Investigators say the float began crossing the train tracks even though warning bells were sounding and the crossing lights were flashing.

Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Corp. announced in December that it was adjusting the timing of the crossing signal where the collision occurred.

Two injured vets and their wives have sued Union Pacific, alleging the train company didn’t provide enough warning signals or do enough to fix what their lawsuit called hazardous conditions. Relatives of some of the victims declined to comment Wednesday or did not return messages.

The veterans had been invited to Midland, a transportation and commerce hub in the West Texas oilfields, for a three-day weekend of hunting and shopping in appreciation of their service. A local charity, Show of Support, organized the trip, parade and other festivities.

Show of Support officials did not get a parade permit from the city.

Killed were Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer, 37; Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34; and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43.

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