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Wounded vet dies saving wife on parade float in Texas train accident

Cory Rogers speaks with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie about his  friend retired Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Michael, who died while saving his wife when the float they were riding in a Texas parade was hit by a train.

One of the veterans killed when a train crashed into a parade float in Texas on Thursday is being hailed as a “hero” for saving his wife just moments before he lost his own life.

Joshua Michael, a 34-year-old Army staff sergeant and recipient of two Purple Heart decorations, pushed his wife, Daylyn, off the trailer just before the train hit, according to a family friend. At least 17 people were injured, one critically, and four were killed as a result of the accident, Midland city officials said. 

Twenty-four veterans and their spouses were on the tractor-trailer, according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram.  

“I think it was just pandemonium more than anything else,” Corey Rogers, a close friend of the Michael family, said on TODAY. “Obviously, Joshua had the reaction of a real man.”

Daylyn survived and was not one of the 17 injured. Her husband was transported to Midland Memorial Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Rogers said Daylyn flew back to her home shortly after to be with her family. Rogers did the interview with TODAY on her behalf.

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“I think everybody’s still in shock just trying to take the news in,” Rogers said. “That’s not easy news to share with anyone, let alone kids who’ve seen their dad go to war and come back and have just now kind of gotten him back, really, in their lives.”

Rogers described Michael as a family man and an “all-around American hero” who liked to hunt and play the guitar and drums.

On Friday, police confirmed the identities of the other three victims of the accident.

Army Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 37, and Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47, were pronounced dead at the scene. Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers was pronounced dead at Midland hospital.

Sixteen people were hurt and four veterans lost their lives on in Midland, Texas, where a Union Pacific freight train crashed into two flatbed tractor-trailers. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.

NBC station KWES of Midland said the tractor-trailer was part of the Show of Support / Hunt for Heroes parade carrying veterans and their spouses to a banquet in their honor. The benefit dinner was being put on by Show of Support, Military Hunt Inc. in Midland on Thursday night, according to the organization's website.

The parade and banquet were leading up to a whitetail deer-hunting trip for the veterans, according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram. Show of Support president and founder Terry Johnson told KEWS that the events were canceled.

According to the website, the organization demonstrates support for members of the military and seeks to bring public awareness of hunting and fishing.

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Midland Police spokesman Ryan Stout said the crash occurred at 4:36 p.m. local time when an eastbound train hit the flatbed trailer. He said the flatbed was the last of two in the parade attempting to cross the tracks.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. At a news conference in Midland on Friday, NTSB spokesman Mark Rosekind said the crossing had flashing lights as well as gate arms, but board had not determined if those were functioning at the time of the accident.

Rosekind said the locomotive had a forward-facing video camera and a sheriff's vehicle directly behind the float had a dashboard camera, and the images would be analyzed in Washington. 

He said there had been 10 train-vehicle collisions at that intersection between 1979 and 1997, but nothing there since then. None of the 10 collisions involved fatalities, he said.

There have been 477 railway-related fatalities between January and August of this year, according to federal railroad safety data. Of those, 93 were related to Union Pacific Railroad, which covers 23 states across the western United States.

In a statement, Union Pacific spokesman Tom Lange said the crossing in Midland has a gate and lights.

“Our preliminary investigation indicates that the lights and gates were operating at the time. Additionally our two person crew sounded the locomotive horn,” Lange said.

Lange said the two-person Union Pacific crew was uninjured.

The National Transportation Safety Board told NBC News that a team has been sent to investigate the accident.

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