Preliminary report released in Texas train crash

    9:00 AM, Dec 6, 2012   |    comments
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    MIDLAND, TX (CNN/KMID) -- Thursday marks three weeks since the Midland, Texas train accident that killed four veterans and injured more than a dozen other people. Meanwhile, we're learning more about the federal investigation into the crash, with the National Transportation Safety Board releasing its preliminary report.

    Memorials still stand at the Garfield Street crossing in Midland; it's a chilling reminder of the tragedy that occurred there three weeks ago. Reminders, also, of the questions still left unanswered after the train tragedy.

    Some of those questions were answered in a preliminary report issued by the NTSB. Officials said this investigation is not a search for fault, but a safety investigation. Peter Knudson with NTSB says, "Ours is simply focused on finding out not just what happened, but why it happened so we can issue safety recommendations to reduce the likelihood of this sort of accident ever occurring again."

    New in this report are some of the details of the crash. The flatbed trailer which was carrying 12 military members, 12 family members and two escorts to a banquet was traveling at about five miles an hour when it made its fateful trip across the tracks.

    Also, the train, which was moving at 62 miles an hour before the crash traveled more than 4,100 feet before coming to a complete stop. That means it took the train almost a mile to stop completely.

    More details were released on the injuries as well. Five people on the float were hospitalized with serious injuries and eight were treated for minor injuries. Also injured was a Midland County sheriff's deputy whose cruiser was struck by the float after it was rammed by the train.

    While the NTSB does not have authority to change any regulations involving railroad crossing, they can use the information from this investigation to make recommendations on how to better prevent accidents of this nature. Knudson says, "We can only make recommendations to other entities that to make changes that would improve the safety of the system."

    Knudson said it is too early to determine what those changes will be, but it is possible these changes could have a huge impact on our railroads. Knudson says, "We have often found that when we uncover a safety issue in any given accident, oftentimes it's systematic and applies, uh, has a more broad application throughout the system."

    Knudson says it could take 12 to 18 months to fully investigate the accident and issue a final report.

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