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)

(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.

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Dec 4, 2013 8:09 AM CST
Casey Jones, you'd better watch your speed!
Dec 3, 2013 1:07 PM CST
This issue has arisen right here several times before in the past year. An expert wondered why technology had not been used to avoid the Spanish train crash There have been previous occurrences at THIS location. Further, the technology exists to automatically put the train through that section at a safe speed and no reason exists for not employing that technology. The fault lies with those who did not do so and they (the municipality) will be held responsible. In any event, the operators of the train system end up paying no matter the cause as they are statutorily bound to indemnify their employee. But big corporations, whether private or statutory (municipal, political, public) love to lay the blame on working people and other working people love blaming working people. The little guy is always an easy target and a sitting duck. Divide and conquer: racism writ small. "A safety expert has said a fatal rail disaster in New York could have been avoided if automated crash-avoidance technology had been installed." Also see AND AND
Dec 3, 2013 12:17 PM CST
That's what I said, it must the operator. Many hurt people for years to come. They should have some kind of buzzard in the cabin, to go off every ten minutes. Who cares Union or non union, the life were lost and someone has to take responsibility.