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Investigators await interview with driver in fatal Texas train crash

By Matthew Waller

SAN ANGELO, Texas (Reuters) - The National Transportation Safety Board said on Wednesday it had yet to interview the driver of a truck carrying U.S. military veterans that was struck by a train in a fatal accident in Texas, and added it may take up to 18 months to wrap up the investigation.

Four veterans were killed and at least 14 other people were injured when the Union Pacific train slammed into a parade float pulled by the truck in Midland, Texas, on November 15 at the start of a weekend of festivities to honor veterans wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Some of the veterans have filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific and Smith Industries, the company that owns the truck that pulled the trailer the veterans were riding on for the parade. The NTSB report does not assign blame for the accident.

The NTSB, in its first report on the accident, said it had not yet been able to interview the driver of the trailer, Dale Andrew Hayden.

Hayden, 50, a veteran and employee of Smith Industries, has been under the care of a physician and is not planning to speak with investigators until cleared by his doctor, his attorney has said.

The attorney could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The one-page preliminary report released by the NTSB reiterated much of what was previously disclosed about the accident. A final report will take 12 to 18 months, it said.

At about 4:35 p.m. on November 15, the report said, a truck pulling an open trailer functioning as a parade float with 12 wounded veterans and their wives went over a railroad crossing.

The truck approached the crossing at about 5 miles per hour, and a Union Pacific train traveling at 62 mph in a 70-mph zone hit the back of the trailer.

"The engineer sounded the locomotive horn, placed the train brakes into an emergency application, and traveled 4,143 feet before coming to a stop," the report states.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Peter Cooney)

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