NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Another stinging report was issued on the Metro-North Railroad Tuesday, concluding this time that a sleep-deprived engineer nodded off at the controls of a Metro-North train just before taking a 30 mph curve at 82 mph, causing a derailment that killed four people and injured more than 70 in the Bronx.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, the National Transportation Safety Board report also announced the findings into the investigation of four other Metro-North accidents that occurred in New York and Connecticut in 2013 and 2014, and concluded that the railroad blew off safety concerns as a matter of habit.
U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) were furious about the findings.
“The MTA has blood on its hands,” Blumenthal said.
“The NTSB report represents a horror-house of negligence resulting in injury, mayhem and death,” added Schumer.
And as if the reaction from lawmakers did not sting enough, the findings alone by the NTSB also paint a nasty picture of the culture inside that nation’s second largest commuter rail line.
“Two accidents on one railroad in a short period of time may be a coincidence,” Hart said. “Five accidents in one railroad in less than a year begged the question — how important was safety at Metro-North?”
The NTSB concluded that safety was not important at the Metro-North. In fact, the report found the railroad often failed to keep up with regular track maintenance — opting to put it off.
The lack of detailed, visual track inspections were pinpointed in two of the accidents investigated.
“Maintenance and other ongoing efforts to address known safety issues should not have to wait for accidents in order to be implemented, but instead should be preventive measures and be completed before an accident occurs,” said Acting NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart.
The NTSB also found that the railroad was seven years’ behind schedule in replacing some track parts.
And as for the Bronx derailment near the Spuyten Duyvil station on the Hudson Line, the NTSB said engineer William Rockefeller’s sleepiness was due to a combination of an undiagnosed disorder — sleep apnea — and a drastic shift in his work schedule, the NTSB said in the report.
“We determined that the cause of this tragic accident was the engineer’s non-compliance with the 30 mph speed restriction because he had fallen asleep due to undiagnosed, severe obstructive sleep apnea,” Hart said.
The agency said the railroad lacked a policy to screen engineers for sleep disorders, which also contributed to the Dec. 1, 2013 crash. It also said a system that would have automatically applied the brakes would have prevented the crash.