Tragedy in Midland

Updated: November 16, 2012

By Jack Mandaville

“I haven’t seen that many brothers down since I left Vietnam forty-three years ago,” said Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter, a two tour Veteran of Vietnam.

At 4:36 pm (CST) on November 15, 2012, a Union Pacific train, heading eastbound on railroad tracks north of West Industrial Avenue in Midland, TX, slammed into the flatbed trailer of an 18-wheeler as it headed southbound on Garfield Street.

The trailer was hauling a group of wounded Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans and their families to Midland’s Horseshoe Arena where they were supposed to be attending a banquet held in their honor by the non-profit group, Hunt For Heroes—an organization that sets up hunting excursions for Veterans.

Four people are confirmed dead and, as of 9:30 pm, 10 have been treated and released from the hospital, while another 5 remain there; four in stable condition, one in critical.

Midland is located in West Texas in an area known as the Permian Basin.  This place, as I’ve observed it in the last 9 months of my residency here, is a booming city that stubbornly maintains its small town frame of mind; a throwback community best-known for its high oil production, cowboy culture, loves of high school football, Mexican food, and old school Texas values.

One of the individuals in this city, a personal friend who I served with and will only refer to as “Dustin,” was called to the Double Tree Hilton by his pastor who wanted him to talk to the survivors (who were staying there) because of his Veteran status.  He relayed these quick bits of information to me after spending five hours talking to and consoling the victims of the tragedy:

  • There were two trucks carrying the Vets and their families.  The second truck was the one that was struck as it crossed over the railroad tracks.  Some survivors say it hit the back axel.
  • One survivor of the accident stated that they only had roughly around five seconds to react once they saw the train.
  • One of the fatalities was an active-duty chief warrant officer.
  • As the train approached, many of the wounded Vets disregarded their own safety to get their wives and others off of the truck.
  • It’s speculated that two of the other dead were either active-duty or retired sergeant majors.
  • One of the wounded, who was the wife of one of the killed, sustained a head injury and lost her leg after her husband got her off the train.  She was flown to Lubbock, TX for her medical attention.
  • After the collision, spectators stood in shocked silence as the Vets who were on the first trailer immediately rushed to the scene to render first aid and assist the survivors.

This tragedy has, in a very chilling way, become a Final Destination-like scenario.  These brave men and women, who have already sustained and survived wounds in conflict, were struck down by an unsuspecting force during an event to celebrate the sacrifices they made and the life they have ahead of them.

I ask that all of you keep these victims and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  Furthermore, for those of you living in the Permian Basin, it’s reported that United Blood Services will need donations from people in the upcoming weeks (especially those with A+ and O- blood types.)  You can go to their locations in both Midland and Odessa.




  1. Caroline

    November 17, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    Profound sadness for those effected by this tragedy. The town of Midland, the veterans and families are in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Antonio Aguilar

    November 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    Thanks for the information. I live over in San Angelo and I’ve been wondering what happened with this. You answered the questions I had.

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