December 3rd, 2013
08:21 PM ET

Union rep.: Engineer "nodding off" before crash

CNN is learning new details in what could have caused the deadly train derailment in New York on Sunday.

According to officials, the train's engineer, William Rockefeller, passed a breathalyzer but told investigators he was "in a daze" and doesn't know "what happened' in the moments leading up to the crash.

The national transportation safety board says there was no problem with the brakes. Four people were killed and at least 67 others were injured when the commuter train entered a sharp turn going 82 miles per hour, in a 30 miles per hour zone.

Nic Robertson is OutFront at the crash site with the latest.

Filed under: News • Train Derailment
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Moss Miller

    An accident at NJT in 1996 showed that these automatic braking systems were not in use; there, a drowsy engineer ran a red light and sideswiped a northbound train in Secaucus, NJ: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/10/nyregion/crash-new-jersey-transit-overview-3-killed-trains-collide-new-jersey.html

    Both engineers were killed, numerous other injuries.

    There should definitely be a yellow signal with a tracking device south of the Riverdale station, where the train should start slowing for that curve. And why there is no alerter in the cab car is insane, such an alerter would sound a buzzer if the engineer dozed off for more than 30 seconds, as it requires some action during that time interval.

    As of now, only the GE Genesis locomotive has an alerter, as the control stand on that end of the train is up-to-date.

    December 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Reply
  2. derfallbright

    It will be interesting to see the facts develop in the case. As I recall there was a big fight with the union to keep the 'fireman' position in trains long after the job of shoveling coal ended. Part of the argument to keep the fireman in the cab was as a back up in case some medical emergency developed with the engineer. Much the same argument as the need for a co pilot on an airplane.

    It sounds like in this case the engineer was alone. A co pilot, or co engineer would have logically said something when he saw the engineer was going 82 MPH into a 30 MPH zone. The cost of the settlements of the law suits alone will more than pay for what ever safety devices that would have been necessary to prevent this tradgic accident from happening.

    There have long been systems on trains that automatically lock on the air brakes of a train if it runs a block light ( 'red light'). In this day and age it's not rocket science to have a speed sensor lock up the brakes if a train passes a preset point at too high of a rate of speed. It's a simple matter of installing a block light at the point of a major danger section like a sharp curve, if the speed sensor detects a dangerously speeding train it simply sends a signal to the block light to turn red and the automatic braking system that is already installed on most trains would be triggered. (I think the name of this system was something like the WABCO, system from Westinghouse. In any case there is not special need for anything fancy to prevent emergencies like this.

    December 4, 2013 at 12:36 am | Reply

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