Midland, Texas Train Crash: Hero Vets Die Saving Wives

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Midland, Texas, Train-Parade Crash Under Investigation

The National Transportation Safety Board was at the scene and has launched an investigation into the accident.

This evening, an NTSB official said video recorders from the train were on their way to Washington for analysis by the board.

He added that there have been prior accidents at the scene of Thursday's disaster.

"There were some accidents from 1979 to 1997 but there has not been an accident at this train crossing in the last 15 years, so the question is what might have changed in that period of time," said the official, Mark Rosekind.

The Texas Department of Transportation told ABC News that the state has actually seen vehicle and train-related fatalities decline 68 percent the last 10 years.

Regarding Thursday's accident, NTSB investigators should be able to determine the speed of the train, as well as whether the train's horn was sounded prior to the accident, when they examine the train's black box.

Rosekind said the NTSB also will be able to study the circumstances of the accident in other ways.

"Our investigators are looking at the rules, regulations, requirements, permits, related to the parade," Rosekind said. "Specifically, we're going to be looking at what the requirements are in notifying the railroad and whether all the procedures, permits, etc., were actually followed, by everyone.

"Our mission is to determine the probable cause, which is determining not just what happened but why," he said, "and that why is critical for us to determine what safety recommendations need to be issued so this does not happen again."

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta "was deeply saddened by news of the tragic accident involving veteran heroes and their spouses in Midland," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement. "His thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, with those injured in this incident, and with the entire community."

"It's obviously a real sad day for Midland, Texas. This may be one of the most tragic events we've had in our town," Mayor Wes Perry said.

Perry today hosted a community-wide prayer vigil to help show support for the victims and their families that have been affected by the incident at the Centennial Plaza in Downtown Midland. Mayor Perry is asking citizens to show support by lowering their flags to half-mast until Monday morning at 8 a.m.

ABC News' Michael S. James and Steven Portnoy contributed to this report.

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