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Texas grand jury refuses to indict driver in train crash

January 09, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Authorities respond to an accident involving a flatbed truck carrying wounded veterans that was struck by a train during a parade in Midland, Texas.
Authorities respond to an accident involving a flatbed truck carrying… (Tim Fischer / Associated…)

HOUSTON -- West Texas grand jurors on Wednesday decided not to indict the driver of a parade float struck by a train, killing four veterans last fall.

Midland County prosecutor Eric Kalenak told the Los Angeles Times that he presented the case along with about two dozen others to a 12-member grand jury that convened Wednesday.

The parade float driver, veteran Dale Hayden, 50, was not subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, Kalenak said -- no witnesses were. Instead, the prosecutor presented police reports and witness statements -- including a statement Hayden made to Midland Police -- about the crash in which a flatbed truck carrying veterans was hit by a Union Pacific train.

Kalenak declined to immediately release those reports and statements.

Midland Police chose not to charge Hayden, a Smith Industries Inc. driver, in connection with the Nov. 15 crash, instead referring the case to prosecutors. Sara Higgins, a Midland Police spokeswoman, said that’s “not uncommon, especially with something of this magnitude.”

Kalenak said he left a message with Hayden’s attorney Wednesday afternoon notifying him of the grand jury’s decision. The attorney, Hal Brockett, did not return calls seeking comment.

An attorney for Smith Industries said the grand jury's decision made sense.

“That is the proper result. The district attorney’s office obviously wanted someone else to bless what they believed and the police, too -- no one was pushing for an indictment,” Dallas-based lawyer Douglas Fletcher told the Los Angeles Times. “This really is not a criminal matter. It’s a tragedy, but I’m glad they did not expand that to include Dale.”

The grand jury is expected to continue considering the case when it reconvenes in three weeks, Kalenak said.

“They will issue a report at a later date, basically going over ... the findings and making recommendations about how to prevent this sort of thing in the future and what they think went wrong,” he said, adding, “I don’t know that they’re going to be considering any further criminal charges.”

It’s not clear what caused the crash. Last month, officials with Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Corp. said that at the time of the collision, they were adjusting the timing of the crossing signal where the crash occurred.

The National Transportation Safety Board was still investigating the crash Wednesday, a spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, and investigators had yet to interview Hayden.


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