Streams

Was the Metro-North Engineer Asleep?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

New information is surfacing about the deadly Metro-North derailment in the Bronx Sunday. DNAinfo columnist and criminal justice editor Murray Weiss, is reporting that sources say that veteran engineer, William Rockefeller, dozed off. The train was travelling at 82 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone and according to Weiss's reporting, "Rockefeller was jolted from his sleep and hit the brake, but not in time." Murray Weiss discusses his reporting. 

Guests:

Murray Weiss

Comments [15]

bruce from Riverdale, NY

I may be wrong about this, but I believe that trains are supposed to have a "dead man's throttle," a device that requires that the motorman apply pressure to compress the throttle in order for it to be active. If the pressure is removed for any reason, the throttle rapidly approaches the "off" position, bringing the train to a brakes-off halt.

I believe that this kind of throttle is in use in the subways, and I was under the impression that was also in use for surface trains. Can someone comment on this point?

Dec. 10 2013 10:44 AM

Forget Mr. Rockefeller's supposed highway hypnosis! What were the passengers doing? I would like to think that if I were on a train going 50 MILES PER HOUR faster than it normally does for the piece of track that I am on that I would pick my nose up out of my eBook and go pound on the conductor's door. Possibly someone did just that and that is what broke through the conductor's fog.

Time to pay a little more attention to our environment, folks.

Dec. 07 2013 10:25 AM

Maybe he had a TIA (A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is an event, sometimes called a mini-stroke, with stroke symptoms that last less than 24 hours before disappearing.) Hopefully they can test for that.

Dec. 06 2013 12:15 PM
Ian from BKNY

One thing that the MTA NEEDS to have in place is health training. Yes, you heard right, healthy eating and exercising routines. This should be made MANDATORY for any employee who is in a position of controlling a moving vehicle. Many a time I find myself getting lethargic after consuming high carb, low energy foods. What time did the engineer take a break? Was this his first trip out? Also, was there proper ventilation/air circulation in the cabin he was in? Too warm a cabin can also lead to drowsiness. These factors need to be taken into account for ALL employees in accidents if the toxicology came back negative and the cellphone record was clean. Also, are the employees allowed to have some sort of music or radio playing at a NON DISTRACTING level? This could have probably prevented him from drifting into an unconscious daydream out of boredom or what drivers on the road call white line fever (if there is something similar on the rails). The MTA does not have these initiatives in place and too many unhealthy employees are operating our systems. Take these suggestions seriously.

Dec. 03 2013 06:45 PM
Susan

If it's true that Mr. Rockefeller fell asleep at the controls, I sympathize with him. We all know how common it is to feel sleepy while driving, and it only takes a second to cross the line into unconsciousness. It's because such a thing is so human and predictable that safeguards against it are necessary, whether they take the form of automatic warnings or the presence of another human being.

Dec. 03 2013 12:14 PM
Paul from Glen Cove

The fallibile safeguards in place on MTA trains are typical. It would seem no one could be bothered to be accountable.
A system to keep drivers awake is fairly simple. I was among traveling employees on the road. We had a system that worked, period.

1. The driver (engineer, motorman etc.) has had a good sleep/nap and is not tired or fatigued.

2. Sitting "shot gun" (front passenger seat) is the person who has most recently (within few hours) woken up. It is the job of "shot gun" person to watch the condition of the driver, and is in charge of relieving the driver. I have watched a driver start to doze behind the wheel and subsequently relieve him, potentially saving the lives of 8 people.

There are substantially more people on a train than on a commercial aircraft and there should at least be the safeguards of similar scale.

Dec. 03 2013 11:55 AM
Paul from Glen Cove

The fallibile safeguards in place on MTA trains are typical. It would seem no one could be bothered to be accountable.
A system to keep drivers awake is fairly simple. I was among traveling employees on the road. We had a system that worked, period.

1. The driver (engineer, motorman etc.) has had a good sleep/nap and is not tired or fatigued.

2. Sitting "shot gun" (front passenger seat) is the person who has most recently (within few hours) woken up. It is the job of "shot gun" person to watch the condition of the driver, and is in charge of relieving the driver. I have watched a driver start to doze behind the wheel and subsequently relieve him, potentially saving the lives of 8 people.

There are substantially more people on a train than on a commercial aircraft and there should at least be the safeguards of similar scale.

Dec. 03 2013 11:53 AM
John from NYC

My idea, similar to, or an elaboration of, Stephanie's suggestion below, would be very simple to implement and it seems bizarre that it has not been done already. Just put a GPS in the control room, link it to programming that details the maximum permissible speed at any given point on the track, then set an alarm to go off whenever the speed surpasses this speed.

I have a $100 GPS in my car from Best Buy that locates me on any road and tells me the speed limit and my current speed. The only modification needed to this simple piece of equipment is somebody to input the tracks instead of the roads and to add the alarm trigger.

Is this so freaking complicated?

Dec. 03 2013 11:35 AM
Smokey from LES

I thought this was why the engineer used a "dead-man switch" for throttle? No?

Dec. 03 2013 11:13 AM
Barb from NYC

Gov. Cuomo: Please support the pre-K TAX plan of our incoming Mayor. He has overwhelming support for it among the public. Thx.

Dec. 03 2013 11:08 AM
Stephanie from Brooklyn, NY

First, Our trains should have a sensor that never allows a train to surpass a certain speed, particularly at turns. It's shocking that we don't already have such an emergency precaution in place.

Secondly, I think this is a public health issue. I think the engineer's health could be an issue here. Which is a tragedy too. Americans are getting obese and unhealthy, because of many reasons, including the sneaky ingredients that people are unknowingly eating because it's stuffed into our processed foods, meats, etc., and the end result is that people are developing diseases, namely obesity and diabetes, narrowing of arteries, and COPD, etc. and these diseases are causing people's bodies not to get enough oxygen, and fall asleep all the time. Obviously not all overweight suffer from falling asleep, but I personally know several people who fall asleep in mid-sentence and I would directly relate it to a sign of their declining health.

It's their bodies - on a cellular level - that are suffering from overwork!

Dec. 03 2013 10:55 AM
A.M. from Nyc

Murray Weiss sounds transparently defensive when asked by BL (in part by clear implication) the following obvious and reasonable question: since the reports that the injured and possibly confused engineer "referred to" having dosed off are obviously hearsay, and further would be just the kind of untruths that the large institution Metro North would get busy seeking to plant in order to protect its bottom line: how do you view the reasonable consideration that this info is being manipulated by Big Money (which also control certain arms of media doh)?

Dec. 03 2013 10:53 AM
Eve Jochnowitz from New York

At least this crash is being investigated. Four people were killed by cars last weekend in New York. None of those crashes has even been investigated.

Dec. 03 2013 10:44 AM
Robert from NYC

Yes, any vehicle driver can relate to this as can any church organist who during the homily dozes off and falls full face onto the manuals with stops in full organ will attest to that horror. That horror, however, doesn't cost lives, it just frays nerves.

Dec. 03 2013 10:43 AM
Robert from NYC

And as has been asked over these days, will we now put in place those safety systems that have been around for awhile now and found in just about every other country around the world? The answer is no! No because here we (you) will forget all about this until the next accident and because, most importantly, it "costs too much". LOL. It costs to much to put into place. Everything in our lives here is based on cost, the bottom line, and we'll (you'll) buy it.

Dec. 03 2013 10:39 AM

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