Sources: Train Driver May Have Fallen Asleep

William Rockefeller alternately described as 'zoned out'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2013 7:53 AM CST
A Metro-North passenger train lays on its side after derailing in the Bronx borough of New York, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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(Newser) – Sources are telling the media slightly different versions of what the Metro-North train driver was doing moments before the crash, but the underlying theme is this: William Rockefeller was out of it. In DNAInfo's telling, the 46-year-old engineer actually fell asleep at the helm, and woke up just as the train sped into a curve (reportedly at 82mph). Sources say Rockefeller "virtually admitted" to this in statements made immediately after the wreck, and added that he hit the brake too late. An NTSB rep did say yesterday that the brakes were applied only about five seconds before the crash—"very late in the game."

In the New York Post's version, Rockefeller told investigators he had "zoned out" and was, in the words of a source, "just somehow inattentive." The Post's sources say a speed-warning whistle "jolted [him] back to reality." The 11-year engineer has a perfect record, notes DNAInfo, and while toxicology and cell phone records will be reviewed, sources say they don't believe drugs, alcohol, or a cell phone is to blame. (Read more train crash stories.)

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