A Metro-North Railroad train derailed in the Bronx last Sunday, killing four passengers and leaving eleven critically injured. Now, federal and state investigations confirm that the train was traveling at nearly three times the permissible speed when it derailed - going 82 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone. Train accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins bring to light some of the most significant findings from the ongoing investigation.
The crash was the deadliest train accident in New York City in over twenty years.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were immediately sent to the Bronx to determine, among other things, if the fatal accident was caused by human or mechanical error. As the NTSB investigation continues, it is becoming clear that the cause was likely the former. The brakes were engaged too late, just seconds before derailment.
The train's engineer, William Rockefeller, is a veteran Metro-North operator with over ten years of experience. The NTSB is trying to determine if Rockefeller was asleep, distracted, or otherwise acting negligently at the time of derailment. His cell phone has been recovered, and his blood tested for alcohol. Investigators also took his cell phone, to see if he was using it at the time. Why the crash occurred is most critical at this point - whether it was human, corporate, or mechanical error, we have to figure out where to go from here.
Errors and Train Derailment
The silver lining is that the crash could have been much worse. It occurred on a Sunday, when the train was nowhere close to full capacity. Upon derailment, the train's cars rolled, sending passengers flying inside the cars, some onto the gravel next to the Harlem River. The cars themselves did not shatter, however, which would have led to many more fatalities.
It is too early to say whether Rockefeller will be held personally responsible - for driving too fast or not pulling the brakes in time - or liability will rest on Metro-North, or any of the trains' parts manufacturers. The brakes seemed to have been working just fine, and the tracks were in good condition. According to the New York Times, Rockefeller initially told responders that he engaged the brakes as an emergency maneuver after he realized the train was moving too fast for the curve.
Several news outlets have reported that Rockefeller told police he had "white line fever," which caused the derailment. White line fever is a term truckers usually use to describe being zoned out, or hypnotized, during long stretches of road. If this turns out to be the cause of derailment, Rockefeller could be held personally liable for the crash.