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November 18, 2012

War-time instinct takes over in Texas train crash

MIDLAND, Texas — With the thunderous crack of a freight train slamming into a parade float carrying his fellow war veterans, Sudip Bose went to work.

A front-line physician in Iraq, Bose and other veterans instantly tended to the injured. They applied tourniquets and put pressure on wounds as their training and battlefield experience took over in the chaotic moments after the wreck at a railroad crossing in this West Texas city.

“Instincts kicked in,” Bose said Friday, a day after the train traveling at more than 60 mph barreled into a flatbed truck adorned with American flags and filled with wounded veterans and their spouses.

Four veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan were killed — including an Army sergeant who apparently sacrificed his life to save his wife — and 16 people were injured. Bose, who served in Fallujah and Baghdad, said the aftermath reminded him of a combat triage situation.

Some of the veterans who managed to jump clear of the wreck rushed to help the injured. Tommy Shoemaker, a special operations soldier, resuscitated one person and applied a tourniquet to a bleeding woman.

“They are trained for tragedy,” said his wife, Pam Shoemaker of Monroe, La., who was with her husband on a float ahead of the one that was hit.

Killed were Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer, 37; Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34; and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43. Three people remained hospitalized Saturday morning, with one spouse in critical condition. A fourth injured person was transferred from Midland to another medical facility in Texas.

At the time of the crash, the veterans were on their way to a banquet in their honor and being cheered on by a flag-waving crowd. Their float was inching across a railroad track in Midland when the crossing gates began to lower.

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