Three years ago today, four people were killed and 60 injured when a Metro-North train derailed at the Spuyten-Duyvil curve in the Bronx. Now the train's engineer William Rockefeller has sued the commuter railroad, blaming Metro-North for not installing technology that would have automatically braked at excessively high speeds and for not having an "alerter" system in the cab to make sure he remained attentive.
The curve is a dangerous stretch of track where train operators must drop their speeds from 70 mph to 30 mph. At the time of the crash, Rockefeller claimed the brakes failed, so he had to "dump the brakes"; the train was going 82 mph around the curve.
It was later revealed that Rockefeller had undiagnosed sleep apnea—he told investigators he was in a trance—and he was never charged criminally. In an interview with WABC 7 last year, Rockefeller described being racked with guilt, "It feels like I want to climb out of my skin. It's horrifying to me. It's horrifying to me. I just wish it never happened. I'm sorry for it happening. I'm sorry for ev-, I just see the faces. I can't stop seeing the faces. I'm just haunted by those faces."
"It feels like yesterday," he told the news station. "It really feels like yesterday. It feels like it just happened. Every day, it feels like it just happened yesterday. And no matter what I do, I just can't shake that feeling."
The lawsuit also takes issue with Metro-North's alleged priorities, saying it failed 'to modify its signal system which would have required mandatory speed reductions approaching critical curves and instead, due to its 'Deficient safety culture' that prizes on-time performance at the expense of protecting riders and workers, relied on engineer to make only one reduction in speed from 70 mph to 30 mph."
In September, the MTA's pension board denied Rockefeller's claim for a lifetime pension. He has received a federal pension.
The Journal News reports, "To date, Metro-North's legal tab for the Spuyten-Duyvil crash is nearly $32 million. Much of that total — $23.8 million — has gone to settle lawsuits filed by passengers injured in the crash."