NTSB removes rail union from investigation into deadly Metro-North train derailment

metro north train derailment
After a union official said Tuesday that the engineer operating a derailed train was dozing before the fatal crash, the National Transportation Safety Board removed the rail union from the investigation.
Credit: Reuters

After a union official said Tuesday that the engineer operating the derailed Metro-North train was dozing before the fatal crash, the National Transportation Safety Board removed the rail union from the investigation.

During a press conference Tuesday, general chairman of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees Anthony Bottalico said the train’s engineer, William Rockefeller, had nodded off moments before the derailment on a 30 mph curve near the Hudson Line’s Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

preliminary investigation by the NTSB revealed the train was going 82 mph before entering the curve. 

“He basically nodded,” Bottalico  said. “He had the equivalent of what we all have when we drive a car — that is, you sometimes have a momentary nod.”

NTSB member Earl Weener said Tuesday there’s “every indication” Rockefeller had time to get enough sleep before his shift, but wouldn’t speculate if human error was to blame.

“He caught himself, but he caught himself too late,” the union head said. “He put the train in emergency, but that was six seconds prior to derailment.”

Four died and dozens were injured when the train derailed.

Under NTSB rules, parties involved in investigations are required to maintain confidentiality. The union, and other organizations involved, agreed to not reveal or comment on investigative information, according to the NTSB.

After the press conference, the NTSB removed the union from the investigation.

“While we value the technical expertise that groups like ACRE can provide during the course of an investigation, it is counterproductive when an organization breaches the party agreement and publicly interprets or comments on investigation information,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement. “Our rules exist to avoid the prospect of any party to an NTSB investigation offering its slant on the circumstances of the accident.”

When reached by phone Wednesday, the union said it would not comment on its removal so long as there’s an ongoing investigation.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


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