News

Driver in fatal NY train crash ‘lost focus’

Driver in fatal NY train crash ‘lost focus’

TRAIN CRASH: Heavy cranes lift a derailed Metro-North train car back onto the tracks in New York, in this still image from video taken by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Dec. 2. Photo: Reuters

By Mark Hosenball and Chris Francescani

(Reuters) – The driver of a New York commuter train that derailed on Sunday, killing four people, told investigators he “lost focus” and went into a daze shortly before the crash, according to a law-enforcement source.

A second source also briefed on the investigation said the driver, William Rockefeller, 46, lapsed into a “highway hypnosis.”

The seven-car Metro-North train was traveling at 82 miles per hour, nearly three times the 30-mph (48-kph) speed limit for the curved section of track where it crashed, investigators have said. The brakes were applied just seconds before it derailed.

The crash also critically injured 11 people and snarled travel for the roughly 26,000 regular commuters on the Metro-North Hudson line which serves suburbs north of New York City.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has cautioned that their investigation would continue for weeks, if not months, and they were far from reaching a conclusion on the cause.

Rockefeller, who has never been disciplined for job performance as train driver, has retained a defense lawyer, Jeffrey Chartier, who did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Rockefeller was due to meet with NTSB officials, possibly as early as Tuesday, according to the second source.

Rockefeller told investigators the train was operating normally when somehow he slipped into a daze, said the law-enforcement source, who has access to official reports on the investigation and requested anonymity.

Rockefeller told investigators he could not fully recall what happened but that at some point he suddenly came out of the temporary daze, realized the train was going too fast and into a dangerous curve, and applied the brakes. It was too late to avoid the crash.

Law-enforcement agencies including the Bronx district attorney, the New York Police Department and transit police are monitoring the investigation.

If criminal charges are warranted, they would be brought by Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, a spokesman for Johnson said.

Asked whether Rockefeller dozed off, the second source said: “It’s more like a highway hypnosis. You’re looking straight ahead and you’re seeing rail and rail and rail and you lose perspective.”

The train’s throttle was reduced to idle six seconds before derailing and its brakes were activated five seconds before the accident, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Earl Weener told a news conference on Monday.

The NTSB was scheduled to brief reporters again on Tuesday afternoon.

“He’s very traumatized,” Anthony Bottalico, the general chairman of the driver’s labor union, the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, said on Monday. “He’s devastated by the loss of life, by the injuries to the passengers and his fellow crew members, and he’s extremely upset about all of it.”

Recent Headlines

in Local Sports

Neagle, Martins propel Sounders past Rapids 3-1

Seattle Sounders players pose for the traditional pre-match team portrait before their season-opener MLS soccer match against the New England Revolution, Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Seattle.

Seattle had not scored in its previous two road games this season.

in Local Sports

Hernandez strikes out 12 as Seattle beats Texas 3-1

felix hernadez seattle mariners mlb generic

Felix Hernandez struck out 12 over seven innings

in Sports

Saturday’s NHL Playoff Results

FILE - In this file photo taken Sept. 17, 2012, the NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators practice rink in Nashville, Tenn. The NHL eliminated 16 more days from the regular-season schedule Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, and if a deal with the players' association isn't reached soon the whole season could be lost. The league wiped out all games through Dec. 30 in its latest round of cancellations. Negotiations between the league and the players' association broke off last week, but NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Sunday the sides are trying to restart talks this week.

Lightning rebound to even series against Red Wings Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop stopped 24 shots for his first NHL playoff…

in Local Sports

Calgary coach Bob Hartley fined $50,000 by the NHL

Calgary Flames head coach Bob Hartley stands behind his bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. The Penguins won 3-1.

Hartley was fined by the NHL for his responsibility for a brawl late in the Flames' 4-1 loss in Vancouver on Friday

in Sports

NBA Playoffs: Warriors survive scare, Wizards beat Raptors in OT, Bulls decisive over Bucks, Rockets beat Mavs

Golden State Warriors shooting guard Stephen Curry gestures against the Los Angeles Clippers during the first quarter of Game 6 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 1, 2014.

Stephen Curry scored 34 points with an MVP-worthy performance, and the Golden State went up big before holding off New Orleans.