When your spouse is in the military, the threat of death is ever-present. But after Gary Stouffer returned home from his latest tour in Afghanistan with a traumatic brain injury, his family believed the Marine was finally out of harm's way.
Stouffer, who served in the Armay as Chief Warrant Officer 3. died at a parade for wounded veterans in Midland. He was 37.
The November 15 crash occurred when a float collided with a Union Pacific train.
Stourffer's wife, Catherine, along with their daughter Shannon, 17, and son Shane, 12, are suing the Dallas-based railroad company and Smith Industries for his wrongful death and "immense emotional and psychological trauma." Smith Industries owned the truck used to transport the float.
The lawsuit cites Gary Stouffer's wrongful death and the family's "immense emotional and psychological trauma."
His parents are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed December 27 in Dallas District Court. All of the Stouffers are being represented by noted Dallas attorney Charla Aldous.
"Tragically, it was a grossly unsafe railroad crossing that took this hero's life and robbed the Stouffer family of the husband and father they thought was now safe," the lawsuit reads.
Catherine was on the float with Gary, who stayed aboard after helping his wife disembark. The lawsuit says the scene of the crash resembled "a war zone," with at least one veteran having been cut in half.
Two days after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report saying that the float crossed the tracks after all the appropriate warning bells and signals were activated. Through its investigation of dashboard cameras and other recording devices, the NTSB believes that the crossing signals, including a guardrail, were working as intended that fateful day.
There were also no problems identified with the tracks or the train's horn or air brakes, which were activated while the locomotive was traveling 62 miles per hour.
In addition to Stouffer, Army Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, 47; Army Sgt. Joshua Michael, 34; and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers, 43, were also killed in the crash. Two veterans who survived the crash have filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific and Smith Industries.