— MIDLAND, Texas (AP) — A joyful celebration turned to chaos as a train, its horn blaring, barreled into a float laden with military veterans and their spouses on their way to a banquet to honor the returning war heroes.
At least four veterans were killed in the collision Thursday afternoon.
The float took the full force of the train at a railroad crossing in Midland. Some managed to jump clear as the train bore down on the float decorated with American flags. Horrified spectators could only watch as the carnage unfolded.
Pam Shoemaker from Monroe, La., said she and her husband, a special operations veteran, were on the float ahead of the one that was struck. Shoemaker described how the celebration so quickly turned sour.
She said her truck had just crossed the tracks and was moving slowly but never stopped. All around, the crowds lining the parade route cheered.
"It was beautiful," she said Friday. "There were lots of people with signs. Children yelling 'thank you!' waving flags."
Then they heard the train coming. There was no warning — she hadn't seen or heard it until it was upon them. The Shoemakers jumped from their truck and ran toward the other one, knowing it would be hit in a matter of seconds. The crossing barriers had just started to come down, she said.
"We started to jump off of our trailer. We saw people jumping from the other trailer and then there was the impact," Shoemaker said.
Sudip Bose, who was a front-line physician in Iraq, said Friday that the immediate aftermath reminded him of a combat triage situation. Veterans were already tending to the wounded when he reached the crash site. Bystanders tried to help with the limited medical supplies available.
"Instincts kicked in. They were applying tourniquets, holding pressure to the wounds," said Bose, who served in Fallujah and Baghdad and was volunteering at the parade.