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Joshua Michael (34) died when a train hit a parade float carrying veterans
Published: Nov 23, 2012 @ 12:31 AM
Joshua Michael (34)
Nov 15, 2012
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A Hereford native and former Amarillo resident was killed Thursday in a Midland accident when a train hit a parade float carrying veterans, but not before saving his wife from harm by throwing her from the flatbed truck on which they rode, his mother-in-law said.
Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34, was one of four people confirmed dead Thursday by Midland authorities after a Union Pacific freight train slammed into the float as it traversed a railroad crossing on its way to an honorary banquet, according to Michael's mother-in-law, Mary Hefley.
Hefley said Michael, who retired for medical reasons, heroically saved his wife, Daylyn Michael.
"He pushed his wife off the float — my daughter," Hefley said, adding that Daylyn was not among the 17 injured reported by Midland authorities.
"She is not hurt at all," Hefley said. "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."
Hefley said Michael died at Midland Memorial Hospital. City of Midland spokesman Ryan Stout said two people died at the hospital and two others died at the crash site.
"When (Daylyn) called me, he was still alive," Hefley said. "I called her brother, and after I hung up, she called me back and told me he had died."
Hefley said Michael was born in Hereford and graduated from Hereford High School before moving to Amarillo to attend Amarillo College and later practiced paramedicine for Northwest Texas Hospital before joining the Army after 9/11.
Hefley said the Michaels have two children who at the time of the accident were in San Antonio, where Michael works as a real estate agent for Ultimate Realty.
On Thursday, the train was sounding its horn and people were jumping off the decorated flatbed truck before the collision around 4:40 p.m. in Midland, according to witnesses and Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange. A preliminary investigation indicates the crossing gate and lights were working, Lange said, though he didn't know if the train crew saw the float approaching.
Ten of the 17 confirmed injured are in critical condition, while the other seven are stable, he said.
About two dozen veterans and their spouses had been sitting in chairs on the float, set up on the back of a flatbed tractor-trailer decorated with American flags and signs identifying each veteran, photos show.
Panic swept through those seated on trailer as the locomotive's horn sounded, said Patricia Howle, who was waiting at a nearby traffic light as the train approached.
"My daughter said, 'Momma, the train is coming!' and she was looking for it as I saw the trailer begin to cross the railroad tracks," Howle told KOSA-TV. "People were jumping off, trying to get off that trailer and the truck was still rolling.
"People on the trailer saw the train coming and they were flying in every direction," she added. "I covered my face. I didn't want to see."
The float was among two flatbed trucks carrying veterans and their spouses, police said. The first truck safely crossed the railroad tracks, but the second truck's trailer was hit by the train. Police said some of the people on the second trailer were able to evacuate before the crash.
A banner across the truck's front bumper read, "Heroes on Board."
The parade was to end at Hunt for Heroes banquet honoring the veterans. The wounded service members were then going to be treated to a deer hunting trip this weekend. The events have been canceled.
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.
"There is going to be a very thorough investigation," Lange said. "It's obviously a very tragic incident."
The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.
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