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Vets' float crossed track after signals: officials

MIDLAND, Texas -- A parade float filled with wounded veterans that collided with a freight train had crossed onto the railroad tracks after warning signals were going off, investigators said Saturday.

Four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were killed and 16 more people were injured when the train crashed into the flatbed truck in West Texas.

It was the second of two floats carrying veterans in Thursday's parade in Midland. The first was exiting the tracks when the warning bells and signals were activated, 20 seconds before the accident, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The second float didn't enter the tracks until several seconds after the warning system went off, the NTSB said. By that time, the guardrail was lowering.

“Once the crossing becomes active, people should stop,” lead investigator Robert Accetta with the NTSB said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

The timeline was pieced together by combining information from a video camera mounted on the front of the train, another one on a sheriff's car and a data recorder that acts like an airplane's black box, activating when the train blared the horn, NTSB member Mark Rosekind said.

Nine seconds before the crash, the train sounded its horn, a blaring that lasted four seconds, according to Rosekind. The guardrail hit the truck, then the engineer pulled the emergency brake, trying to bring the train that was traveling at 62 mph (100 kph) to a screeching halt.

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About 200 people attend a candlelight vigil held at Centennial Plaza in Midland, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 17, in honor of the people involved in an accident where a Union Pacific train struck a float carrying military veterans on Thursday, Nov. 15. Four veterans were killed, including one from the San Antonio area. (AP)

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