Some high-profile attorneys have started laying the groundwork for the first lawsuits related to the fatal parade float/train collision in Midland, Texas.
Midland city spokesman Ryan Stout said Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37,and Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident Thursday afternoon. Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43,were pronounced dead later at Midland Memorial Hospital.
Federal officials joined investigators looking into why the freight train slammed into the float, killing four and injuring 16 others. Federal investigators are now questioning the driver of the rig that was pulling the float filled with wounded veterans, their spouses and civilian escorts.
The float was among two flatbed tractor-trailers carrying veterans and their spouses. Police said the first truck safely crossed the railroad tracks, but the second truck's trailer was still on the crossing as the train approached.
The parade had been scheduled to end at a "Hunt for Heroes" banquet honoring the veterans. The wounded service members were then going to be treated to a deer-hunting trip.
Two of the surviving victims of the accident, a husband and wife, hired two of the most well known train accident attorneys in the United States
Attorney Kevin Glasheen of Lubbock has won millions of dollars for train accident victims in Texas and Kansas attorney Bonb Potroff is considered the top railroad accident attorney in the country. The pair has already begun an independent investigation into the accident.
Glasheen and Potroff are representing Sgt. Richard Sanchez and his wife, Heather. Both survived but Sanchez reportedly suffered a broken spine.
This high powered legal team is in Midland as investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board began piecing together a timeline of events.
Investigators said that 20 seconds before impact, the railroad crossing's lights and bells activated as the first float passed over the tracks. At 13 seconds, the crossing's gate arms began lowering. One second later, the second float began passing over the tracks. Nine seconds before impact, the train's conductor hits the horn, and 5 seconds before impact, the train emergency brake was thrown, but at that distance it was too late the stop the crash.
Both attorneys have not yet filed a lawsuit, but say they are examining whether the railroad crossing's warning system activated in enough time to give the driver of the rig a chance to stop.