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NY Rail Crash Engineer Has 'Severe Sleep Apnea'

NTSB probe: William Rockefeller had undiagnosed sleep problems
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 7, 2014 5:37 PM CDT
NY Rail Crash Engineer Has 'Severe Sleep Apnea'
In this Dec. 1, 2013 file photo, a Metro-North passenger train lays on its side after derailing on a curved section of track in the Bronx borough of New York.   (Mark Lennihan)

An engineer driving a speeding commuter train that derailed last year, killing four people, had a sleep disorder that interrupted his rest dozens of times each night and said he felt strangely "dazed" right before the crash, according to federal documents released today. Asked if he was clearheaded enough to realize he was entering a curve just before the Dec. 1 derailment in the Bronx, engineer William Rockefeller told investigators "apparently not." The Metro-North Railroad train hit the curve, which has a 30 mph speed limit, at 82 mph. More than 70 people were injured.

The NTSB released medical reports, interview transcripts, and other documents but said its analysis of the information and any determination of the cause would come later. Rockefeller's medical exam after the accident uncovered "severe obstructive sleep apnea," apparently undiagnosed, the NTSB said. It said a sleep study had been ordered because Rockefeller "did not exactly recall events leading up to the accident." In his NTSB interview, Rockefeller said his run that day was fine until he got a strange feeling: "It was sort of like I was dazed, you know, looking straight ahead, almost like mesmerized," he said, calling it "that hypnotic feeling." Click for more on the story. (More NTSB stories.)

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