Investigators are still sorting through all the facts around last Sunday's fatal Metro-North train derailment in The Bronx, but the chief of the operator's union admitted yesterday that the worker "basically nodded" off before the crash. “He basically nodded... He had the equivalent of what we all have when we drive a car — that is, you sometimes have a momentary nod,’’ Anthony Bottalico, director of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, said of engineer William Rockefeller Jr.
“He caught himself, but he caught himself too late...He put the train in emergency, but that was six seconds prior to derailment,” Bottalico added, insisting that Rockefeller made a "mistake" but didn't commit a crime. Altogether, four people were killed and 63 people were injured in the fatal crash which occurred around 7:20 a.m. Sunday morning.
The NTSB confirmed that the train was traveling 82 mph when it entered the sharp turn in Spuyten Duyvil, well over the 30 mph recommended speed. Initially, Rockefeller blamed the brakes for the incident, but the NTSB disagreed: “simply put...there is no indication that the brake systems were not functioning properly,” said NTSB board member Earl Weener.
After the derailment, Rockefeller allegedly told law-enforcement that “I was in a daze," and "I don’t know what I was thinking about and the next thing I know I was hitting the brakes." “There was every indication he had time to get rest, to get focused,” Weener added. “There is no indication the brake systems were not functioning properly.”
Because of Bottalico's comments, the NTSB has now removed the union from the investigation. Bottalico "discussed and interpreted information related to the ongoing investigation," the NTSB said, a violation of a confidentiality agreement all invested parties signed prior to the probe.