HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Federal officials are pushing NJ TRANSIT, and other railroads to do more to fight employee fatigue.
It comes as a lawyer confirmed that the engineer in the deadly Hoboken crash has severe sleep apnea.
“When I first heard about this accident, I thought it was likely to be a falling asleep accident,” sleep expert Steven Feinsilver told CBS2’s Tony Aiello.
He wasn’t surprised by the latest information involving the engineer in the Hoboken train crash.
A lawyer for Thomas Gallagher said a post-accident exam showed the engineer had undiagnosed ‘severe sleep apnea.’
Apnea disrupts sleep at night, causing risk during the day, on the job.
“You might absolutely fall asleep, which of course in the transportation industry could be a complete disaster,” Dr. Feinsilver explained.
Gallagher told investigators he had no memory of the crash. Feinsilver said it may have happened during so-called ‘microsleep.’
“Little bits of time, maybe even just a few seconds where if I had EEG on you measuring brainwaves, I’d show you’re asleep for a few seconds. If something happens in that time, you’re not able to respond to it,” Dr. Feinsilver said.
NJ Transit requires train crews to have regular physicals. Gallagher’s attorney said the engineer passed a physical in July, and he passed.
Pictures of Gallagher show he is overweight with a large neck, two warning signs of sleep apnea risk.
“Turns out one of the simplest screens for sleep apnea is collar size. You can ask people what shirt size they have. Greater than 17 and they’re at increased risk,” Dr. Feinsilver explained.
When asked if Gallagher should have been diagnosed during July physical, the agency did not respond.
The engineer of the fatal 2013 Metro North crash also had undiagnosed sleep apnea.
The Federal Rail Administration said it is working on new guidelines to confront the issue.