NTSB searches for answers to Midland train collision

The National Transportation Safety Board has re-enacted the Nov. 15 train crash that left four veterans dead.

One of those soldiers was Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, of Hereford. And friends, family and the public are wanting answers as to how the accident happened.

"We're going to take all that factual information and put it all together and try to make a determination of the probable cause of this accident and any other factors that led into it," NTSB Spokesperson Peter Knudson said.

A Union Pacific freight train crashed into a parade float that was carrying veterans and their families to an honorary banquet. Four of the veterans died, two of whom were killed while pushing their wives off of the float.

Tuesday's re-enactment involved a locomotive, an engineer, a truck and a driver. It took place at the same time of day as the accident and with the same kind of daylight.

"They can say- ultimately, will be able to say- at what point the engineer could have clearly seen the train (sic) truck," Knudson pointed out.

The board will go through three stages of investigation, and collect data from perishable evidence to witness interviews. Other organizations associated with the accident will provide the NTSB with additional information to be added to the investigation.

"It looks like seven parties- the Federal Railroad Administration, Union Pacific, the Brotherhood of the Railroad Signalmen, the City of Midland, the Midland Police Department, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the United Transportation Union," Knudson said.

When the investigation is complete, a report will be written and put before a five-man board. The board will determine the cause of the accident and then make safety recommendations.

"Ultimately, our most important product is our safety recommendations because we often find things that are systematic that can have wider application than with just this accident," Knudson added. "So, we're able to reduce the likelihood of future such accidents."

Knudson said the investigation can take up to 18 months to complete.

"That may seem like a long time. But when you understand the depth of what we're looking at and the details that we go into, there's literally thousands of pages of documents that support every one of these investigations."

The NTSB's factual reports from different parts of investigations are permissible in litigation. The final analysis of an accident is not.

Click here for more information about the NTSB investigation process.