New York City Train Sped Into Tragedy

New York CityThe New York City seven car commuter train headed for Grand Central Station that tragically crashed  in the Bronx, killing 4 people, was speeding – going 82 mph when it entered the 30-mph curve and shot off of the tracks.  The information was reported by the National Transportation Safety Board on Monday and is based on preliminary data from the black boxes that were recording in the locomotive and in another car.  The crash occurred on New York City’s Metro-North Hudson line,  approximately 10 miles north of Manhattan’s Grand Central Station.  Last year, the same line carried 15.9 million people into and out of New York City.

Earl Weener, member of the NTSB, spoke to reporters today, relating that the data from the event recorders show that the engineer let go of the throttle six seconds before the crash.  The brakes were applied five seconds before which, according to Weener, was “very late in the game.”  Weener cautioned that the data from the black boxes might indicate what happened, but cannot tell why it happened.  The engineer and crew of the train were still facing questioning as of Monday afternoon.  The engineer, who was injured in the crash and hospitalized, and the crew were also subject to routine alc0hol and drug testing.  The results of those tests are pending.

Of the approximately 150 people on board the train at the time of the crash, four were killed and 67 were reported as injured.  As of Monday evening, 19 remain in the hospital, three of whom are in critical condition.   Sunday’s deaths mark the first fatalities in the 30-year history of the Metro-North.

William Rockefeller, the engineer of the doomed train, reported to investigators that when he put on the brakes, the train  did not slow down.  Weener has said that the investigation to date has shown no sign of any brake trouble.  In addition, not only was the train’s speed too fast going into the curve where it derailed, but it was also faster than the recommended track speed of 70 mph leading into the curve.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement on Monday evening confirming that extreme speed was the major contributing factor in the crash.  He also vowed to hold any people found responsible by investigators accountable for their actions if it is determined that the tragedy occurred because the train bound for New York City was speeding.

As part of the investigation, authorities will review Rockefeller’s recent work history and will thoroughly examine his cell phone.  Although the NTSB has subpoenaed the engineer’s phone record, a source close to the investigation has said that they have no indication that Rockefeller was on his phone when the crash occurred.

The crash occurred at approximately 7:20 am EST on Sunday morning.  The seven cars flew off of the tracks and across a grassy area that separates the rails from the Harlem and Hudson rivers, which intersect at that point. The crash was so intense that it ripped the rails apart and tore a section of the track bed, strewing the scene with heavy chunks of cement. Chuck Schumer, United States senator, appeared next to Weener today and stated that the tracks seemed to have been in good condition and that the signals were thought to have been in proper working order.  He cautioned against placing any blame this early in the investigation.

Workers were able to place the rail cars on the tracks Monday, allowing the police to determine that no other people or bodies remained trapped in the debris.

There were no video cameras on board the train, but cameras mounted on a nearby bridge did film the train’s approach.  Although the image captured is clouded by dust and small, technicians will work on the recording in an attempt to capture any usable images.

The same curve on which the train jumped the tracks on Sunday was also the scene of a freight train accident in July.  The train derailed and damaged approximately 1500 feet of the track.  Weener indicated that the NTSB would investigate a possible connection between the July derailment and Sunday’s accident, but did not seem to believe that much of anything would be found.  The tracks are inspected twice a week and were deemed “OK for normal operations” in the last inspection.  The investigation into the New York City train that sped its way into tragedy on Sunday morning will continue until a definite answer is found.  Until then, authorities caution the public from placing blame on anybody or anything prematurely.

By Jennifer Pfalz


Chicago Tribune


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