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Texas Train Crash: Veteran With Two Purple Hearts Saves Wife, Three Others Killed

By William Dennings   |   Friday, 16 Nov 2012 02:22 PM

A freight train barreled into an 18-wheeler parade float carrying 24 wounded war veterans and their spouses Thursday evening, killing four of the vets and injuring 17 other people. Two of the veterans died after pushing their wives to safety, ABC News reported (http://abcnews.go.com/US/midland-texas-train-crash-purple-heart-hero-saved/story?id=17735939#.UKZ4KGuzFZo). The float was on its way to an annual honorary banquet.

Army SGT Joshua Michael, 34, was one of the heroic vets who saved his wife, his mother-in-law, Mary Hefley, told the Amarillo Globe-News. He had been the recipient of two purple hearts, having been wounded after two tours of duty in Iraq.

"He pushed his wife off the float -- my daughter," Hefley said. "He was that kind of guy. He always had a smile on his face. He would do for others before he would do for himself."

Army SGM Gary Stouffer, 37, and 47-year-old Army SGM Lawrence Boivin were pronounced dead at the scene. Michaels and 43-year-old Army SGM William Lubbers were transported to Midland Memorial Hospital where they were later pronounced dead.

Witnesses described a terrifying scene, where the Pacific Union could not slow down quickly enough and the flatbed truck was locked on the tracks by another float. Some said the police sirens of cruisers participating in the parade may have drowned out the sound of the train. Many of the people on the back of the trailer were in wheelchairs, according to eyewitness accounts.

"The train honked its horn, but the 18-wheeler could not go anywhere because of the other one being right in front of it," Daniel Quinonez, a witness, told USA Today. The impact was deafening, according to eyewitness reports.

Police said the signal crossing on the train tracks was working at the time of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating, as is Union Pacific railroad. Six people remained hospitalized, and 11 others had been treated and released.

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A freight train barreled into an 18-wheeler parade float carrying 24 wounded war veterans and their spouses Thursday evening. Two of the vets, including a double purple heart honoree, were able to save their wives.

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