The driver of the Metro-North train that derailed Sunday had fallen asleep moments before going around a dangerous curve that required the train to be slowed down to 30 mph, investigators told DNA Info on Tuesday. William Rockefeller, a veteran engineer with an unblemished record, allegedly dozed off for a few fateful moments, and awoke as the train sped around the curve, too late to slow down. Rockefeller, and the rest of the Metro North crew, took drug and alcohol tests, but all came back negative. His cellphone records have also been subpoenaed. Four people were killed in the derailment and at least 60 more were injured.
"Veteran engineer William Rockefeller all but admitted he was falling asleep as the train came roaring to a curved section of track north of Spuyten Duyvil in statements made shortly after four people were killed and dozens were injured in the wreck, sources said.
He apparently woke up just as the train, traveling at 82 mph, was heading into a precarious curve that called for the train's speed to be reduced to just 30 mph.
As the train entered the curve, sources said, Rockefeller was jolted from his sleep and hit the brake, but not in time. The cars derailed, and several careened onto their sides before grinding to a halt on the edge of the Harlem River. Four people were killed, three of whom were thrown out of the cars, and more than 60 others were injured.
Rockefeller, 46, has been an engineer for roughly 11 years and a Metro-North employee for 20 years, and has an unblemished record."
For more than 20 years the NTSB has recommended the implementation of a system known as positive train control technology (PTC), which combines GPS, wireless radio and computers to monitor trains and stop them from colliding or derailing. But the railroad industry has opposed the technology because of the high cost. PTC systems provide a safety redundancy by slowing or stopping the train that isn't being operated in accordance to signals, speed limits or other operating rules. PTC is proven technology that can prevent train-to-train collisions, over speed derailments and incursions into work zones.
Salvatore Arena, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said the agency began work to install PTC on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad in 2009, budgeting nearly $600 million for PTC installation, including $428 million last month for a system integrator. Full implementation is estimated at $900 million.
According to union officials, Rockefeller was thoroughly traumatized by the tragedy and is said to be cooperating fully with investigators.
Rockefeller is described by friends and colleagues as a "sincere, hardworking man who was always serious and responsible about his job."