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Train Warning Was 10 Seconds Late in Texas Crash

Alert designed to sound 10 seconds earlier
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2012 1:03 AM CST
Train Warning Delayed in Texas Crash: Records
Railroad investigators work the scene of an accident where four veterans were killed and 16 others were injured when a train slammed into a parade float in Midland, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012.   (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)

The railroad crossing where four veterans were killed this month should have given a 30-second warning of an approaching train, the Wall Street Journal finds. Instead, it gave just 20 seconds' notice, via bells and flashing lights, investigators say. Seven seconds after the lights began flashing, the rail gate began its descent, hitting the passing float, a probe finds. Texas transportation records reviewed by the Journal suggest the signaling system was designed with 25mph trains in mind; the train in question was moving at 62mph, which was still below the speed limit.

The 30-second figure is based on Texas transportation records which train operator Union-Pacific says "do not reflect current conditions." For its part, the railroad says its crossing conforms to federal rules. The float "proceeded onto the tracks eight seconds after the red flashing lights and bells activated," Union-Pacific says. "Disregarding active warning signals is extremely dangerous and we urge drivers to stop once the red flashing lights and bells activate." A lawyer for people injured in the accident says 30 seconds' warning would have averted the disaster. (Read more train stories.)

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