CAMP LEJEUNE - A Camp Lejeune Marine is among four veterans killed at a veterans parade in Midland, Texas, on Thursday.
The joyful celebration at the parade turned to chaos as a train, its horn blaring, barreled into a float laden with veterans and their spouses. At least four veterans were killed in the collision -- including Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer.
Marines and supporters gathered Friday evening at the family's home in Onslow County.
The float took the full force of the train at a railroad crossing. Some managed to jump clear as the train bore down on the float decorated with American flags.
Stouffer was from Hubert and, according to an online biography he wrote for an outdoorsman website, he'd served in the Marine Corps for 17 years.
Stouffer was married with two children. His post says he's been deployed multiple times to combat zones, humanitarian missions, and foreign country military training around the world. He served in Albania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and twice in Iraq.
The article also said Stouffer received two Combat Action Ribbons, Multiple Personal Commendation Medals, Campaign Medals from Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and numerous Unit Awards. He was also pending approval for the Purple Heart.
Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43 - both of Fayetteville - were also killed.
The eastbound freight train was sounding its horn before it hit the float around 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 didn't know if 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. Ten of those injured are in critical condition, while the other seven are in stable condition, he said.
"There is going to be a very thorough investigation," Lange said. "It's obviously a very tragic incident."
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.
"It's pretty traumatic for them," he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said.
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