Union: US train engineer was nodding off before crash

2013-12-04 13:52
Investigators at the scene of a commuter train wreck in the Bronx borough of New York. (Timothy Clary, AFP)

Investigators at the scene of a commuter train wreck in the Bronx borough of New York. (Timothy Clary, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Yonkers - The engineer in a commuter-train derailment that killed four people over the weekend caught himself nodding at the controls just before the wreck, a union official said on Tuesday.

William Rockefeller "caught himself, but he caught himself too late," said Anthony Bottalico, leader of the rail employees union, relating what he said Rockefeller told him.

During an afternoon news conference, federal investigators said they were still talking to Rockefeller, and they would not comment on his level of alertness around the time of the Sunday morning wreck in the Bronx.

Rockefeller's lawyer did not immediately return calls.

Questions about Rockefeller's role mounted rapidly after investigators disclosed on Monday that the metro-north railroad train jumped the tracks after going into a curve at 132km/h, or nearly three times the speed limit. In addition to the four people killed, dozens were injured.

National transportation safety board member Earl Weener said on Tuesday that it was too soon to say whether the accident was the result of human error or a mechanical problem.

Enough sleep

But he said investigators have found no evidence so far of any problems with the brakes or signals.

Alcohol tests on the train's crew members were negative, and investigators were still awaiting the results of drug tests, the NTSB official said.

On the day of the crash, Rockefeller was on the second day of five-day work week, reporting for duty at 05:04 after a typical, nine-hour shift the day before, according to Weener.

"There's every indication that he would have had time to get full restorative sleep," Weener said.

But Botallico said Rockefeller had switched just weeks earlier from the night shift to the day shift, "so he did have a change in his hours and his circadian rhythms with regard to sleep."

The New York police department is conducting its own investigation, with help from the Bronx district attorney's office, in the event the derailment becomes a criminal case.

Rockefeller himself, meanwhile, stayed out of sight. But his union and former co-workers spoke up in his defence.

"This is a man who is totally distraught by the loss of life, and he's having a tough time dealing with that," Bottalico said.

Faulted for speed

He added: "Once the NTSB is done with their investigation and Billy is finished with his interview, it will be quite evident that there was no criminal intent with the operation of his train."

With the NTSB yet to establish the cause of the crash, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday the engineer could be faulted for the train's speed alone.

"Certainly, we want to make sure that that operator is disciplined in an appropriate way. There's such a gross deviation from the norm," he said.

Rockefeller, 46 and married with no children, has worked for the railroad for 15 years and has been an engineer for 10, according to Weener.

Rockefeller's work routine had recently changed. He had begun running that route on 17 November, two weeks before the wreck, said Marjorie Anders, a spokesperson for metro-north's parent, the metropolitan transportation authority.

- AP

Read more on:    us
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Langa - 06:21 AM
    Road name: N2 Inbound
    DELAYS between Duinefontein Road and the Bhunga Avenue exit
  • Thursday Delft - 06:17 AM
    Road name: Hindle Road Westbound
    DELAYS approaching the R300 Highway
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router The B683 wireless gateway (hereinafter...

From R1671.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be required to travel or get information for your job. This may be restricting in some way or something may slow things...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.