Raw data show the train that derailed in the Bronx borough of New York
Sunday was going much too fast, but investigators are still
questioning the train’s crew to figure out why.
By Katherine Jacobsen
The commuter train that derailed in the Bronx borough of New York
early Sunday morning was traveling 82 m.p.h. when it went hurtling off
the tracks in an area where the speed limit was 30 m.p.h., said a
National Transportation Safety Board official on Monday afternoon.
This discovery is part of an ongoing investigation by the NTSB to find
out why seven Metro-North passenger cars and their locomotive veered
off track en route from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to Grand Central Terminal
in New York City.
The board’s investigation team used data recorders from the train’s
rear-mounted locomotive and front car to help establish a timeline of
events, including the train’s speed. Approximately six seconds before
the rear engine came to a stop, the throttle went idle. One second
later, pressure in the brake pipe dropped to zero, which resulted in
It is still too early to know whether it was human or mechanical error
that caused the crash, and authorities were not yet sure what caused
the throttle to idle or the brake pressure to drop, said Earl Weener,
an NTSB member during Monday’s press conference.
On Monday, the NTSB began to interview the train’s engineer and plans
to speak with three other crew members during the next few days.
The train’s engineer, William Rockefeller, was injured and “is totally
traumatized by everything that has happened,” said Anthony Bottalico,
executive director of the rail employees union, according to the
Sunday’s accident is the second on the Metro-North line in six months
and occurred about 2,000 feet from where the previous crash happened.
In July, a CSX freight train carrying tons of garbage derailed. The
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), owned by the state of New
York, runs the Metro-North commuter rail.
The two crash sites both lie along a curve in the train tracks where
the Hudson and Harlem rivers meet in the Bronx near Spuyten Duyvil
station. The MTA considers this area to be a “slow zone” because of
two tight curves that come in quick succession. In the area, the speed
limit drops to 30 m.p.h., compared with 70 m.p.h. for the track well
ahead of the curves, said Mr. Weener. The wreck in the Bronx came two
years before the federal government’s deadline for Metro-North and
other railroads to install automatic-slowdown technology designed to
prevent catastrophic accidents, the AP reported. But with the cause of
Sunday’s wreck unknown, it was not clear whether the technology would
have made a difference.
As the investigation continues, the rail cars and locomotive, which
were repositioned onto tracks early Monday morning, will be moved to a
secure location for more detailed study, according to the NTSB.
The deaths of four passengers in Sunday’s derailment are the first in
an accident in the MTA’s 31-year history. The Metro-North train was
half-full at the time of the crash and was carrying approximately 150
passengers when the incident occurred.