Metro-North Engineer Reportedly Dozed Off Before Fatal Derailment

The train engineer at the wheel during Sunday’s Metro-North train derailment, which killed four and left over 60 injured, was reportedly asleep in the moments before the crash, according to new reports.

The Grand Central-bound train was going 82 mph — almost three times the speed limit — when it barreled toward one of the route’s most treacherous curves. Initially, engineer William Rockefeller told investigators that the brakes had failed to engage as he approached the bend, making it impossible to slow the train down.

But according to sources, Rockefeller has all but admitted to dozing off before the train reached the curve. He reportedly woke up just before the crash; the black boxes recovered from the site indicate that “Rockefeller didn’t apply the brakes until just five seconds before the derailment.”

An NTSB investigator had previously said that they would be examining the role of human error in the crash. Rockefeller’s cellphone was confiscated as part of the investigation, and drug and alcohol tests were also conducted.

Rockefeller, 46, had worked for Metro-North for about 20 years. According to the Times, he “rose from the ranks of Grand Central Terminal custodians to a six-figure job as an engineer.” He appears to have a fairly clean record, and had been familiar with the route before the crash.

The accident comes during an already troubled year for Metro-North. In July, a freight train derailed near the same spot as Sunday’s crash, and in May, two trains were involved in an accident near Bridgeport, CT, which injured 76.

At the moment, Hudson Line service between Grand Central and Yonkers is suspended, although crews are working to replace the damaged tracks. The investigation is still ongoing, and it’s unclear when service will resume, though it’s likely to take some time. (Service after the CT derailment took around five days to resume.)

For now, Hudson Line commuters — many of whom are NYU students — are encouraged to take the Harlem Line instead. In addition, shuttle bus service will run between Yonkers and Van Cortlandt Park-242 Street, where customers can connect to the 1 train into Manhattan. For service between Yonkers and Poughkeepsie, travelers should take the 1 train to Van Cortlandt Park-242 Street, where they can take a shuttle bus.

For more details, check here for information about repair efforts and service restoration.

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