Bronx, NY Metro-North Train Wreck, Dec 2013
METRO-NORTH TRAIN SPED AT 82 MPH AHEAD OF CURVE IN FATAL CRASH.
The Metro-North Railroad train that hurtled off the rails on a sleepy holiday weekend morning was traveling 82 mph as it approached one of the sharpest curves in the region's rail system, federal investigators said on Monday - nearly three times the speed permitted through the turn.
The throttle was still engaged - giving the engine power - until six seconds before the locomotive, in the rear of the train, came to a stop around 7:20 a.m. Sunday after the train careened toward the Harlem River, killing four people and injuring more than 70, north of Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, officials said.
The NTSB is leading the investigation, and a board member, Earl Weener, said the train's sudden power shift came "very late in the game." The board cautioned that it remained unclear if the speed was the result of human error or faulty equipment.
But the extraordinary speed shed new light on the deadliest New York City train derailment in more than two decades and heightened the focus on the veteran engineer at the center of the investigation.
The maximum allowable speed through the curve is 30 m.p.h., even the straightaway north of the crash site permits speeds no greater than 70 m.p.h.
Asked if the safety board was looking into the possibility that the engineer, WILLIAM ROCKEFELLER, fell asleep, was using his cellphone or was otherwise distracted, a spokesman for the board, Keith Holloway, said, "Part of our investigation, as in all investigations, is to look at human performance factors."
MR. ROCKEFELLER'S cellphone was recovered as "part of our routine process," Mr. Weener said, and the results of drug and alcohol tests conducted after the crash were not yet known. MR. ROCKEFELLER was treated at a hospital and released.
The authorities said that the train's brakes appeared to have been operating effectively shortly before the crash.
"We are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes," Mr. Weener said.
Senator Charles E. Schumer noted,
"The train did make nine stops before coming to this curve. So clearly the brakes were working a short time before."
He added that he was told by the safety board that the tracks in the area also seemed to have been in proper condition.
The revelations came as workers raised the train cars - all seven and the locomotive had been derailed - and thousands of commuters were forced to use alternative routes. The police and prosecutors began a parallel investigation to see if a crime had been committed.
The safety board's interview with MR. ROCKEFELLER, a Metro-North employee who lives in Germantown, N.Y., was cut short Monday afternoon and is to continue this week, officials said.
Anthony Bottalico, the acting director of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, said that the interview was postponed because of "the trauma of the whole thing and the lack of sleep"
for MR. ROCKEFELLER.