Grand jury declines to indict driver in Texas parade accident
Odessa American, Texas
MIDLAND, Texas — A Midland County grand jury declined Wednesday to indict the driver of a parade truck struck by a Union Pacific train in November, killing four veterans.
Driver Dale Andrew Hayden, a 50-year-old Army veteran, was no-billed in the grand jury proceedings, which prosecutor Eric Kalenak said took most of the morning.
“There was a lot of information in the police investigation and that’s kind of what we presented to them,” Kalenak said. “It’s hard for me to comment on what they did because it’s their decision to make.”
District Attorney Teresa Clingman said later in a news release that the grand jury has not finished its review of the incident. Neither she nor Kalenak explained what that meant.
But District Clerk Ross Bush said the DA’s investigation of Hayden is complete, and the grand jury may later issue a report about the tragedy, which occurred during a Nov. 15 parade for wounded veterans led by the local group Show of Support.
The truck Hayden drove carried 26 people – 12 veterans, their spouses and two civilian escorts. According the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary investigation, Hayden entered a railroad crossing seconds after warning lights and bells activated and just before crossing guards lowered, signaling that a train was on its way.
The train struck the trailer at 62 mph, killing 47-year-old Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 34-year-old Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 37-year-old Marine Chief Warrant Officer Gary Stouffer and 43-year-old Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers. Another 16 riders were hospitalized with injuries.
The NTSB investigation continues and could take up to a year.
The Midland Police Department announced in December it would not charge Hayden, who was reportedly under the care of a physician following the incident. At the time, police offered no explanation, only a heavily redacted investigative report, and referred the case to the District Attorney.
Lawyers on behalf of three injured veterans and their wives filed suit in Midland against Hayden’s employer, Smith Industries, and Union Pacific, claiming negligence. Separately, Stouffer’s widow, Catherine Stouffer, sued the companies last month out of Dallas County.
Union Pacific announced last month it would repair signal circuitry to add more warning time at the crossing, which is at the intersection of North Garfield Street and West Industrial Avenue.
Show of Support never sought a permit for the parade. The group has since announced its intention to continue honoring wounded veterans, though in a different form.
Staff reporter Jon Vanderlaan contributed reporting.