Brakes Were Fine on Metro-North Train That Derailed

Alcohol breath tests also came back negative

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Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Four or five cars of the seven-car train left the tracks about 100 yards north of the station, but none entered the adjacent Hudson and Harlem rivers, the MTA said.

Based on train data, there is no indication that the brakes on the Metro-North train that crashed Sunday morning were broken, Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a press conference Tuesday. Metro-North had performed several brake tests on the train before the trip and found no anomalies. Further, as the train made stops along its route, it showed no sign of brake problems.

Crew members are being interviewed about the incident throughout the day. Results from crew alcohol breath tests were all negative and drug tests are still pending. The NTSB will ask other workers on the train whether they were worried about the speed of the train before the crash. The NTSB did not provide information about whether the engineer had retained a lawyer, though it did say that the man had worked for Metro-North for 15 years and had been an engineer for 10 of those years.

It’s too early to tell why the deadman switch — a switch the operator leaves his foot on throughout the duration of the trip and which automatically brakes if he lifts off his foot — didn’t work. The NTSB also did not release information about whether the engineer had been on his cell phone before the crash. Many critics of Metro-North have pointed out that there seemed to be no backup plan or system — such as a co-engineer or technological system — to prevent the crash if the engineer suffered health problems at the wheel.

The crash killed four people and injured more than 60. On Monday, NTSB member Weener said train engineer William Rockefeller Jr. was “consciously asleep” moments before the train he was driving reached 82 m.p.h. in a 30-m.p.h. zone when it crashed.

MORE: Engineer on Derailed Train ‘Consciously Asleep’: Is That Possible?