Officials won't say why Texas driver isn't charged

AP News
Posted: Dec 07, 2012 2:32 PM

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Officials in a West Texas city where four wounded veterans died when a train hit their parade float wouldn't say Friday why they won't pursue criminal charges against the driver.

City spokeswoman Sara Higgins said the police report isn't finished but investigators "wanted to get it out" that Midland resident Dale Andrew Hayden, 50, won't be charged.

She said the reasons against filing charges would be explained in the completed report, which is expected to be done within the next week. The report will then go to the district attorney, Higgins said.

Hayden was driving a flatbed truck carrying wounded veterans and their wives in a Nov. 15 parade when it was hit by a Union Pacific train traveling 62 mph. The National Transportation Safety Board says Hayden ventured onto the track after the warning signals started flashing and before the arms had descended.

The NTSB said the device was activated within 20 seconds of the train's arrival, the minimum standard required by federal regulations. However, Texas Department of Transportation documents made public last month indicate that the device was designed to activate at 30 seconds.

Midland County prosecutor Steve Stallings said the district attorney's office would review the report and a decision on potential charges would come afterward.

"We do it all the time," Stallings said of cases in which police don't pursue charges but the district attorney decides otherwise. "If it establishes someone is criminally culpable we'll present it to a grand jury. If we believe that offense is a felony, sure we will."

Hayden's attorney, Hal Brockett, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday.

Investigators with the NTSB have not talked with Hayden, agency spokesman Peter Knudson said in an email response.

"We have put in a request to interview the driver," he wrote. "He has not refused the interview but he has not yet made himself available."