Tragic Accident Takes Lives of 4 Wounded Veterans

In a tragic accident, four wounded veterans taking part in a parade in Midland, Texas were struck and killed by a train. Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37 years old, and Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, were pronounced dead at the scene. Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43, died at Midland Memorial Hospital.

The parade, which was created to support U.S. troops and featured severely wounded veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, was attempting to cross the tracks about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. One witness stated the crossing-barrier arms started to descend onto the trailer and then rose up again, sending veterans and their family members scurrying off the truck. "People were flying off the trailer on both sides, almost like a waterfall," he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was launching an investigation of the accident, and hoped to have some investigators on site late Thursday. A board spokeswoman didn't provide any details about what happened.

According to Midland police, 26 people were on the float at the time. Some riding on it were able to jump off before the crash. Mr. Michael died pushing his wife of 15 years off the float.  As of 7 a.m. local time this morning, five victims remained at the hospital, four in stable condition and one in critical. Another critical patient was being treated at University Medical Center in Lubbock.

Two-dozen veterans and their spouses or partners attended the parade, which was sponsored by Show of Support, Military Hunt Inc., a Midland-based group that holds an annual outdoors trip for wounded veterans, organizers said. All the veterans were amputees, had been severely burned in combat or had suffered other severe wounds that left them disabled.

Before the parade, the honorees had toured the veterans' memorial in Midland, part of which depicts a helicopter evacuating wounded soldiers during the Vietnam War. "They really connected emotionally with the scene," Mr. Philbeck said, because "all of them were evacuated by chopper" after being wounded.

The visiting veterans, who were from across the U.S., were then evenly divided on two bunting-covered trailers en route to the Midland County Horseshoe Arena, where thousands were expected to attend a banquet in their honor in what has become an annual tradition in West Texas.