"That will give us some video images if it survived the crash and we can download it, as well as recorders on the train," Hersman said. "We're going to be looking at the signals ... and making sure that the gates and lights were coming down."
Late Thursday, Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said a preliminary investigation indicated the crossing gate and lights were working. He did not know if the train crew saw the float. The black box from the train will determine its speed at the time of impact.
Federal Railroad Administration records reviewed by The Associated Press show that there have been 10 previous collisions — five cars and five trucks — at the same railroad crossing since 1979. Six drivers were injured in those accidents, but there were no fatalities. The trains involved were moving slowly at the time of the previous accidents, between 15 and 25 miles per hour.
The parade had been scheduled to end at a "Hunt for Heroes" banquet honoring the veterans. The wounded service members were then going to be treated to a deer-hunting trip this weekend. The events were canceled.
The events were organized by Show Of Support, a local veterans group that says its mission is to "lift the spirits of our U.S. troops and disable veterans" through hunting and fishing. The group's president, Terry Johnson, has not responded to emails seeking comment and his phone number was unlisted; the phone rang unanswered at the group's offices.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was saddened by the news of the accident, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement, adding that Panetta's "thoughts and prayers" are with the victims and the community.