A freight train plowed into a parade float that had wounded veterans and their spouses sitting on top waving at onlookers Thursday evening. Authorities have since been able to confirm the death of four servicemen aboard the float; two servicemen gave their lives to save their wives from the unforgiving locomotive. Investigators are looking into the locomotive operative records and the integrity of the machine in an attempt to determine the functionality of the warning horn.
Army SGM Gary Stouffer, 37, and 47-year-old SGM Lawrence Boivin were pronounced dead at the scene in Midland, Texas according to authorities.
At about 4:30 p.m. the Union Pacific train wrecked the honorary event turning it into one scene of chaos and destruction.
Army SGT Joshua Michael, 34, and 43-year-old Army SGM William Lubbers were transported from the scene and later pronounced dead at Midland Memorial Hospital, according to the Midland Police. They made up a portion of a total of seventeen people that were transported to the hospital with injuries; ten people were treated and released; four people were in stable condition; one person was in critical condition all as of Friday morning.
SGT Michael got in between his wife, and the steel behemoth, he pushed her away just before impact and he was killed in the crash according to his mother-in-law who told the Amarillo Globe-News.
“He pushed his wife off the float — my daughter,” Mary Hefley told the newspaper. “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.”
Michael retired from the Army due to health reasons according to Hefley.
In a website setup by Michael’s family friend Cory Rogers, the father of two completed two tours of duty in Iraq, and received two Purple Hearts after being wounded in combat.
“His love of country and for his wife, Daylyn and their two children shone through,” his family said in a statement on the site. “The family appreciates everyone’s thoughts and prayers in this very difficult time.”
SGM Boivin showed the same amount of courage as he pushed his wife out of the way before the train got to her Jaime Garza told ABC News. His wife was hurt in the crash and survived. Garza was helping escort the floats when he heard the noise and turned around to see what had happened.
“I looked in my rear view mirror. That’s when I saw the train hit the float,” Garza said. “I made a quick U-turn to get back up there. The first person who was there was Lawrence. I had to help him out … and he gave me his last breath … He actually pushed [his wife] off the float and then he got hit.”
Denise Garza said that the entire incident happened very fast.