Train Operator Under Scrutiny After Deadly Derailment

Varying reports that he 'dozed off' or 'zoned out' before crash that killed 4 and injured more than 60

  • Share
  • Read Later
Craig Ruttle / AP

It was not immediately clear what caused the accident, but MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the curve on the track where the derailment occurred is a slow-speed area.

Questions about what caused the deadly derailment of a commuter train in New York on Sunday are increasingly focusing on whether the train’s operator was at fault.

The local news website DNAInfo, citing unnamed sources, reported Tuesday that William Rockefeller was asleep before the accident. Rockefeller, according to DNAInfo‘s sources “virtually admitted” to investigators “that he fell asleep” before the Metro-North train barreled toward a sharp curve at 82 miles per hour, even though trains are supposed to reduce speed to 30 miles per hour for the curve.

The New York Post, also citing unnamed sources, reported Tuesday that Rockefeller, an 11-year train engineering veteran, had “zoned out” before the crash. One source said Rockefeller was “just somehow inattentive” before apparently slamming on the brakes too late to prevent the derailment. And the New York Daily News, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that Rockefeller told police “I was in a daze” before the derailment.

Four people died and more than 60 were injured in the crash.

Although the Post’s sources said that Rockefeller suggested the train’s brakes “failed to engage,” a National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson said that “at this point, we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes.” Sources told the Daily News that Rockefeller was “consciously asleep.”

No other details about Rockefeller’s statements to authorities have been released and he has yet to comment publicly, but there have been no suggestions that drugs or alcohol were in any way a factor in the accident.

A railroad safety expert told the New York Daily News that the accident looks bad for the engineer. Really bad.”