Engineer likely fell asleep at controls of derailed Metro-North train: sources

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Sources say the engineer likely fell asleep as the train approached the dangerous curve.

NEW YORK (PIX11) – William Rockefeller, the engineer of the Metro-North train that derailed in the Bronx Sunday morning, likely fell asleep at the controls as the train barreled at almost three times the speed limit toward a dangerous curve, a senior ranking member of the NYPD told PIX11 News.

The source, who is familiar with the operations at the scene, also said that alcohol and drugs appear to not have been a factor in the derailment that killed four passengers and injured dozens more.

This development comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday morning that the engineer must be “held accountable” in the investigation.

“This operator is not going to be operating a train any time soon, of that I can assure,” Cuomo said on the Brian Lehrer show.

The stretch of railroad between the Ludlow station and Spuyten Duyvil is a straight shot where MTA Hudson Line trains routinely ramp up the speed of the train.

The speed limit leading up to Spuyten Duyvil is 70 mph and is reduced to 30 at the curve itself. Routinely, the train begins to decelerate approximately a half-mile before the turn. Sunday morning’s express train was going 82 mph at the time of the accident according to the NTSB.

The source stressed that it is still speculation that Rockefeller was asleep at the switch as he was the only person in the area of the controls.

An MTA union official informed PIX11 that the dead man’s switch, in this particular diesel train, is located on the floor of the locomotive, not at the controls, and thus would not have detected that the engineer potentially falling asleep at the controls.

The locomotive is never manned when in it is in the push configuration, sources told PIX11. The engineer is in charge and their in no co-pilot.

Sources have told other New York media that the engineer told investigators he had “zoned out” before the crash.

A spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney’s office has confirmed to PIX11 News that investigators from the prosecutor’s office have been on the scene since Sunday and have been working closely with all agencies involved.

The NTSB will be holding their final briefing Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

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2 comments

  • myobill

    Amtrak and NJ Transit trains use Positive Train Control on the Northeast Corridor line. It is also used on other passenger and freight lines in the US. Problem is some railroads have been trying to delay it due to cost, the MTA trains being one of them. Hopefully this will make them realize just how important this system is.

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