Human error is the likely cause of the commuter train derailment that killed four in New York on Sunday. A union official was reported by Fox News (12.3.13) as having said the engineer operating the train was nodding off and “caught himself, but he caught himself too late.” David Perecman of The Perecman Firm, PLLC, an attorney with decades of experience and success representing those injured in MTA accidents, reaches out to those injured in the Metro-North derailment.
“Not only was the engineer falling asleep, but he was speeding. The engineer admitted he zoned out and only applied the brakes when a whistle went off warning him of the dangerously fast speed at which he was approaching the curve,” said Perecman. “This indicates that this accident was the result of negligence or recklessness on the part of the people in control of the train and/or defects in the train.”
If the engineer, William Rockefeller Jr., fell asleep it was despite the determination that he had had the opportunity to “get full, restorative sleep,” reported Fox News.
The train was approximately 10 miles from its destination, Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, when it took a 30-mph curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station at 82 mph. All seven coaches and the locomotive came off the tracks in the accident on New York’s Metro-North Hudson line. Four people died and at least 67 more were injured, Fox News said.
“An 8-car passenger train moving at 80 miles an hour needs a mile or more to stop after the engineer fully applies the emergency brake. Mr. Rockefeller applied the brakes 5 seconds before the derailment,” Perecman said. “Based on formulas at 82 mph, he is traveling approximately 120 feet per second, which means he applied the brakes about 600 feet before he derailed. That is far, far too late. Based on my own rough calculations, without full information yet available, it would take three to five times that distance to slow the train from 82 mph to 30 mph, which is the speed it should have been traveling.”
Trains can’t stop quickly or swerve.
Rockefeller was an experienced engineer on the Hudson route. The track appeared to be in good condition to authorities and there appeared to be no problems with the train’s brakes. The results of the drug and alcohol tests performed on the crew have so far been negative. Authorities were also still considering mechanical failure as the cause of the crash, according to Fox News.
“People cannot take responsibility for a train while too tired to operate it safely. Drowsiness is a true impairment, just like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while texting,” said Perecman.
“My sincerest condolences go out to the survivors and the families and friends of the victims of the recent train derailment,” said Perecman.
The Fox News story cited is “Engineer in fatal NY train wreck was falling asleep at controls, union official says.”