(NECN/NBC News: Chris Clackum) - A parade to honor wounded veterans turned tragic on Thursday when a flatbed float carrying a dozen such veterans and their spouses stopped on a railroad crossing, blocked by the float in front of it, just as a freight train came barreling down the tracks.
"It was a chaotic scene,” said Dr. Sudip Bose. “It was loud, it was noisy, people were panicking.”
Witnesses say some were able to jump off the float before the train slammed into it -- but obviously not everyone.
Among the fatalities was 34-year old Army staff sergeant Joshua Michael, recipient of two Purple Hearts.
His mother-in-law said Michael pushed his wife Daylyn off the trailer just before the train hit. Daylyn survived.
NTSB investigators arrive on Friday.
"We're going to be looking at the signals and downloading information from the wayside signals and making sure the gates and lights were coming down,” said NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman.
Video after the crash shows both the lights and gates working properly, and a statement from Union Pacific Railroad said a preliminary investigation came to the same conclusion.
The parade had been scheduled to end at a banquet honoring the veterans, who had already been through so much -- and now this.
The four fatalities have been identified as 37-year-old Sgt. Maj. Gary Stouffer, 47-year-old Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 34-year-old Army Sgt. Joshua Michael and 43- year-old Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers.