Train driver in fatal N.Y. crash had sleep disorder: lawyer

Metro-North engineer William Rockefeller Jr. is loaded into an ambulance after a derailment in the Bronx borough of New York December 1. Credit: Reuters
Metro-North engineer William Rockefeller Jr. is loaded into an ambulance after a derailment in the Bronx borough of New York December 1. Credit: Reuters

The driver of a train that derailed in December in New York City, killing four passengers, had an undiagnosed sleep disorder at the time of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Monday.

William Rockefeller, the engineer at the controls of the Metro-North commuter train that derailed in the Bronx on December 1, suffered from severe sleep apnea, which can cause drowsiness, according to documents published by the safety board on Monday.

The diagnosis came from a doctor specializing in sleep disorders and who examined Rockefeller in December at the safety board’s request.

“Being a shift worker might have contributed to the accident,” the doctor, who was not identified, wrote in a statement to the board, according to a medical report among the newly published documents.

The disorder, characterized by shallow or interrupted breathing during sleep, often goes undiagnosed, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Jeffrey Chartier, Rockefeller’s lawyer, also confirmed the diagnosis.

“He was fully cooperative with the NTSB and their investigation, including providing his doctors and medical records,” Chartier said in a telephone interview.

Rockefeller’s condition appeared to have been aggravated by his assignment to an early-morning shift about two weeks before the crash, Chartier said.

The medical report also said Rockefeller had small amounts of a sedating antihistamine in his bloodstream at the time of the accident.

His last routine physical examination for Metro-North was in May 2011, and his last visit to his own doctor was in May 2013, the report said.

Before the accident, doctors had diagnosed Rockefeller as obese and having hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, low testosterone, vitamin D and B12 deficiencies, and mild high-frequency hearing loss, the report said.

He had never been screened or examined for sleep apnea until after the accident, the report said.

Investigators said the seven-car train was traveling nearly three times faster than the speed limit as it approached a curve in the track just outside the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. Besides the four deaths, more than 70 people were injured.

Rockefeller has said through his representatives that he may have dozed off shortly before the derailment.

The safety board also released transcripts of interviews with Rockefeller and other Metro-North employees on Monday, along with a report by engineers who examined the scene of the accident.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

Movies

Shia LaBeouf disorderly conduct case pushed to September

A judge on Thursday adjourned until September the disorderly conduct and harassment case against actor Shia LaBeouf, who was charged with disturbing a Broadway theater…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.