March 7, 2014
New York locomotive crashTuesday, December 3, 2013
Derailed train over limit
NEW YORK — A commuter train that derailed over the weekend, killing four passengers, was hurtling at 132kph as it entered a 48 kph curve, a federal investigator said yesterday. But whether the wreck was the result of human error or brake trouble was still unclear, he said.
National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said the information on the locomotive’s speed was preliminary and extracted from the Metro-North train’s two data recorders, taken from the wreckage after the Sunday morning accident in the Bronx.
He also said investigators had begun interviewing the crew members, but he would not disclose what the engineer had told them.
Weener said the throttle went to idle six seconds before the derailed train came to a complete stop — “very late in the game” for a train going that fast” — and the brakes were fully engaged five seconds before the train stopped.
He said investigators were also examining the engineer’s cellphone — apparently to determine whether he was operating the train while distracted.
Asked whether the tragedy was the result of human error or faulty brakes, Weener said: “The answer is, at this point in time, we can’t tell.”
He said investigators are not aware of any problems with the brakes during the nine stops the train made before the derailment.
As investigators mined the data recorders for information, workers righted the fallen cars along the curve, a bend so sharp that the speed limit during the approach drops from 112kph to 48 kph.
The wreck came two years before the federal government’s deadline for Metro-North and other railroads to install automatic-slowdown technology designed to prevent catastrophic accidents. But with the cause of Sunday’s wreck unknown, it was not clear whether the technology would have made a difference.
The engineer, William Rockefeller, was injured and “is totally traumatized by everything that has happened,” said Anthony Bottalico, executive director of the rail employees union.