Union Pacific Sued for Fatal Veterans Day Parade Accident

Posted on January 4, 2013


The widow of one of four Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who were killed in a train-on-truck collision in Midland on November 15, which also left 16 others injured, on Thursday sued Union Pacific Railroad Inc. in Dallas County court, holding it responsible for that “unimaginable tragedy.”

Catherine Stouffer, wife of the late Gary Lee Stouffer Jr., a Marine chief warrant officer 3 who served in Bosnia, Kosovo and did two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, in her wrongful death lawsuit alleged  “Union Pacific authorized the train to travel up to 70 miles per hour” at a “a grossly unsafe railroad crossing” which was “designed for a train traveling at 25 miles per hour.”

Stouffer’s lawsuit is the second brought against Union Pacific, and Smith Industries, the company that provided the flatbed truck and the driver, for the Veterans Day accident.

Earlier, Richard Sanchez and Todd King together with their wives, filed suit claiming the railroad was negligent at the time of the crash which resulted in their injuries. That lawsuit filed by the injured vets and their wives, as in Stouffer’s complaint, alleges Union Pacific failed to provide reasonable and timely audible and visual warning of the approaching train and failed to provide a safe railroad crossing. It also says the train did not brake or otherwise attempt to slow and that the railroad had not fixed hazardous conditions posed by the road grade. Smith Industries on the other hand was accused of having a driver who, among other things, failed to keep a proper lookout and did not exercise reasonable care for the veterans on the truck’s trailer. The driver of the truck, Dale Andrew Hayden, is an Army reservist who works for Smith Industries, the oilfield services company which provided the vehicle used in the parade.

According to records of the case, the four who died and the 16 who were injured were among those who were on the Smith Industries flatbed truck which was struck by a Union Pacific train traveling at 62 mph. They were in the process of crossing the tracks when the crash happened. The truck was the second float in a November 15 parade organized by a group called ‘Show of Support-Hunt for Heroes’ to honor wounded veterans and their wives. The parade has been an annual event in Midland signaling the start of a three-day weekend of banquets, deer hunting and shopping in appreciation of the veterans’ service to the nation. Aside from Stouffer, the others killed were Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34; and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43.

Stouffer’s widow is seeking damages for herself and her children, Shannon, 17, and Shane, 12, for wrongful death, past and future pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and medical and funeral expenses.

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