Alerter System Automatically Applies Brakes If Engineer Is Unresponsive

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An alarm system was set up in the derailed Metro-North train, but not in the engineer’s car.

As WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reported, the locomotive at the rear of the wrecked train was equipped with an “alerter” system, which can automatically apply the brakes if the engineer is unresponsive and doesn’t react to an alarm.

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“It goes off and then you have, like, 20 seconds to turn it off. And if you don’t turn it off, it turns off the motor,” Dr. Patrick Sherry of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera.

According to a New York Times report, the system was not installed in the cab where engineer William Rockefeller was. There was, however, a so-called dead man’s control foot pedal as the safety device.

Experts say the alerter system is the preferred safety measure.

Officials determined the train was going 82 mph as it approached a 30 mph zone leading into a curve in Spuyten Duyvil on Sunday morning.

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Rockefeller told a union head he had “nodded” and zoned out just before the train derailed, leaving four people dead and dozens more injured.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said new versions of cab cars will include the alerter system. It remains unclear whether the system could have prevented or reduced the severity of Sunday’s crash.

Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said stepped up efforts include safety stand-downs, which are opportunities for all safety issues to be raised, discussed and explained.

“There have been a number of terrible accidents, but I believe that we have a safe railroad,” she told WCBS 880. “That one accident does not undermine 30 years of safe operations.”

Rockefeller has been suspended without pay, something union officials say is standard procedure in such cases.

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