Engineer Under Scrutiny in Deadly NYC Train Wreck

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  • NEW YORK (AP) — He’s worked on the railroad for two decades, but engineer William Rockefeller‘s life may be defined by what he did in the seconds before his speeding commuter train flew off the tracks along a sharp bend.

    While investigators have yet to finish talking with him, a darkening cloud of questions is forming around Rockefeller because the Metro-North Railroad train went into the curve at 82 mph, or nearly three times the speed limit. Four people were killed and dozens injured.

    As National Transportation Safety Board continued working Tuesday to determine what caused the Sunday morning wreck in the Bronx, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Rockefeller should be disciplined for “unjustifiable” speed.

    Rockefeller stayed out of sight.

    “This is a man who is totally distraught by the loss of life, and he’s having a tough time dealing with that,” said Anthony Bottalico, his union leader.

    NTSB member Earl Weener said Monday that information from the data recorders indicates the throttle was let up and the brakes were fully applied just five or six seconds before the train came to a grinding, smoking halt.

    Investigators said it was soon to say whether the excessive speed was the result of human error — say, a sleepy or distracted operator — or a mechanical problem.

    But Weener said investigators hadn’t found any evidence of brake trouble during the train’s nine previous stops.

    Investigators began talking to the engineer Monday but didn’t complete the interview. It is unlikely to resume until Wednesday, NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said Tuesday.

    He said he had no information on why; Bottalico said the session wasn’t finished because Rockefeller was distressed and hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours.

    Rockefeller was given drug and alcohol tests — the results weren’t available Monday, Weener said — and investigators were examining the engineer’s cellphone. Engineers can have cellphones but are not allowed to use them during a train’s run.

    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.

    Whatever the findings on the cause of the crash, Cuomo said Tuesday the engineer could be faulted for the train’s speed alone.

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