No Sign Of Mechanical Malfunction, Alcohol Use By Crew In Train Derailment

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Photo Credit: NTSB

YONKERS, N.Y. - There is no indication of any mechanical malfunction in the train, rails, or signal system involved the Metro-North Hudson Line derailment Sunday, which killed four and injured others, the NTSB announced Tuesday at a press conference at the Hampton Inn in Yonkers.

In addition, alcohol tests for the crew have come back negative, said Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board. Drug tests are still pending.

“We looked at data from each of the nine stops along the route, and saw no anomalies or degradation in the braking system performance as the trip went along. Simply put, based on these data, there’s no information to suggest the brake system was not functioning properly,” he said.

Weener said that investigators had begun detailed inspections of the individual cars and locomotive on Tuesday.

Anthony Bottalico, general chairman of The Association of Commuter Rail Employees, the union representing Rockefeller, told The Daily Voice that Rockefeller is a competent engineer.

“I’ve known him for 15 years," Bottalico said. "He’s a good man. He’s very traumatized by the loss of life. There was no criminal intent. It was an honest mistake.”

Bottalico said Rockefeller told investigators he nodded off and did not come to until it was too late.

"People make these mistakes all the time when they're driving their cars," he said.

Bottalico added the union was providing Rockefeller with legal counsel.

Speed is still being considered as a main factor in the derailment. According to Weener, the train was traveling at 82 mph in a 75-mph zone when it went through a 30-mph curve.

The train had previously stopped at Tarrytown Station, and had been traveling continuously for about 20 minutes.

Weener said it is still too early to call the engineer’s state of mind at the time of the accident, and would not comment on reports of Rockefeller being “zoned out” or asleep as the train went into the curve.

Weener would not conclude whether the accident was the result of mechanical or human error. He did, however, touch on the NTSB’s recommendation of adding positive train control technology (PTC) to all trains.

“Broadly speaking, we know that human error can’t be eradicated, and that PTC is capable of supplementing the human operation," Weener said. "These systems provide a safety redundancy by stopping a train operating out of accordance with signals, speed limits, or other operating rules. Since this is a derailment involving a high-speed train, it is possible that PTC could have prevented it."

Weener said the engineer, identified as William Rockefeller, is currently undergoing interviews with investigators.

According to the NTSB report, Rockefeller was in the second day of his workweek, and had begun his shift on time at 5:04 a.m. A conductor and three assistant conductors accompanied Rockefeller on the train at the time of the accident.

According to Weener, Rockefeller has worked for the Metro-North for 15 years, spending 10 years as an engineer.

Weener stated the conference would be the last held by the NTSB, and all further updates from the investigation would come from Washington, D.C.

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Comments (14)

Has anyone noticed the irony in this tragic accident? One of the people killed, Jim Lovell, was going into NYC to work on the Rockefeller Center tree-lighting, and the engineer of the train is named Rockefeller.

This is all due to the republicans not funding modern technology in the mass transit system

Lets stop being so near-sighted. This is Metro North's negligence. There have been nothing but problems and fare hikes now their negligence has killed people. This is a reckless monopoly and its been going on for too long. It is disgusting.

The guy fell asleep, has nothing to do with infrastructure.

As investigators begin to piece together what led to a deadly commuter train derailment Sunday, former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood decried a lack of investment in the nation's transportation infrastructure.

“We haven’t made the investments,” LaHood said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," adding that the fatal crash demonstrated what was wrong with infrastructure through the nation.

Excellent point Mary jane. This is what I and many others have been saying all along. It is due to the Republicans ignoring the mass transit infrastructure while giving tax breaks to big oil.

There are funds available for the so-called modern technology. The MTA is sitting on several hundred million dollars for several years, but the executives have not done anything other than to divert some of those funds into their salaries and bonuses. MTA management is criminally negligent when it comes to the safety of the riders.

Regardless of why Rockefeller fell asleep - the point is he did. This is an act that took four lives - in the most senseless way. There is no excuse for the man. When you have a job that entails transporting many lives from point A to point B then you damn well better be prepared for it. Adequate sleep being essential- 15 years of experience seems to have given him a false sense of confidence and a less then acceptable level of commitment to safety.

Assuming the comments made in the article are true, it sounds like the walls are beginning to close in on the engineer....

Typical union BS. What time did he go to bed the night before? Sunday night football party? "People make these mistakes all the time when they're driving their cars", says the union goon. Yeah, but people don't get paid six figures to drive their cars; and they don't have 150 people in the back seat. Fire this turkey; sue the crap out of the railroad; and get rid of the unions.

Expect the Union to defend the engineer's actions, whether or not he actually fell asleep.