Lawyers, Experts Inspect Train Crossing Signals

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - It's been one month since four veterans were killed in a deadly train wreck in Midland that also injured several other people.

Attorneys for the families involved in the accident were back at the scene of the crash hoping to build their case against Union Pacific.

A month ago, it was the site of chaos and then tragedy.

But on Monday, the railroad crossing at Garfield and Front St. was surrounded with officials looking for answers.

"We're trying to determine the lights and gates only gave a 20 second warning when they were designed to give a 30 second warning," Attorney, Kevin Glasheen, said.

Glasheen represents veterans and families who were injured in the deadly train crash.

He, along with several experts, were at the crash site paying close attention to the warning signals at the crossing.

"We've gotten into the signal cabinet and we're studying the plans for the lights and gates controllers," Glasheen said. "We are going to be walking the track and examining the shunts that actually sense the train and send the signals to the signal box."

What lies behind the blaring horn and flashing lights could be the answer that attorneys are looking for.

"We found that the signal controllers have been modified from the original designed and approved plan," Glasheen said.

A flat bed trailer similar to the one involved in the wreck was also brought in for sight distance and visibility studies.

Union Pacific Public Information Officer, Raquel Espinoza, said they've been fully cooperative with the attorney investigation.

However the railroad company feels this tragedy could've been avoided if the truck wouldn't have crossed the tracks.

Espinoza said a red light was given 30 seconds before the train entered the crossing. She said active warning signals began 20 seconds before the crash, which Espinoza said still met federal standards.

But lawyers disagree.

They say there should've been at least 30 seconds of active warning time for this type of crossing.

Union Pacific said it's important to note that more than 69.5 million cars have crossed this intersection and there had been no train vehicle accidents for 15 years until November 15th.

But even with these statistics, attorneys aren't convinced this crossing is safe.

"The experts will consult, do their analysis, give us their reports and then we'll ask the railroad to explain why they failed to maintain the signal system to give the warning that it was required," Glasheen said.

Their inspection continues Tuesday in Fort worth.  That's where they'll test the locomotive and the horn system from the train.