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Texas grand jury to examine deadly veterans' float-vs.-train crash

January 03, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Authorities examined the trailer In November after it was hit by a Union Pacific train in Midland, Texas.
Authorities examined the trailer In November after it was hit by a Union… (Tim Fischer/Reporter-Telegram/Associated…)

A grand jury is expected to determine whether charges should be filed in the Nov. 15 train crash in Midland, Texas, that killed four wounded veterans riding a parade float.

Investigators are still picking through the particulars of what happened during the accident, which saw a Union Pacific train plow into a flatbed trailer carrying veterans and their wives to an honorary banquet. Five other people were seriously hurt.

The driver of the truck that was pulling the trailer, Dale Andrew Hayden -- a veteran himself, who is suspected of driving onto the train tracks while crossing warnings were going off -- still has not been interviewed by National Transportation Safety Board investigators, board spokesman Peter Knudson told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

Hayden's attorney, Midland-based Hal Brockett, did not respond to a message seeking comment Thursday.

Midland County Assistant Dist. Atty. Eric Kalenak told the San Antonio Express-News the grand jury would be impaneled in the state's 385th District Court on Wednesday and would determine whether to file charges or ask for more evidence.

“What they'll hear is the evidence from the investigation by the Police Department, which is a very thorough investigation,” Kalenak told the Express-News. “I am just presenting the case.”

Dallas-based lawyer Douglas Fletcher, who represents Hayden's employer, Smith Industries Inc., previously told the Los Angeles Times that Hayden was "highly traumatized" by the accident and had been placed into a VA hospital in Big Spring, Texas, within 72 hours of the accident.

Hayden had also received hate mail, said Fletcher, who never formally represented Hayden.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Smith Industries and Union Pacific -- one by a veteran's widow and the other by two injured couples -- claiming negligence in the crash.

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