MIDLAND, Texas — A freight train slammed into a parade float carrying wounded veterans on Thursday, killing four people and injuring 17 others as the float crossed a West Texas railroad crossing on its way to an honorary banquet, authorities said.
The eastbound train was sounding its horn before it hit the float about 4:40 p.m. in Midland, Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said. A preliminary investigation indicates the crossing gate and lights were working at the time, Lange said, though he did not know whether the train crew saw the float approaching.
Two people died at the scene of the crash, while two others died at Midland Memorial Hospital, City of Midland spokesman Ryan Stout said. Seven of those injured are in critical condition, while the other 10 are in stable condition, he said.
‘‘There is going to be a very thorough investigation,’’ Lange said. ‘‘It’s obviously a very tragic incident.’’
The parade was to end at a ‘‘Hunt for Heroes’’ banquet honoring the veterans.
Lange said Union Pacific is offering help to the community and victims’ families, as well as peer-to-peer counseling for the train crew, who did not sustain any injuries.
The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.