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Union Rep: Train Engineer 'Nodded Off'

Metro North to Conduct Safety Stand-Down Thursday

Metro North repairs are nearly complete. Screenshot: Metro North video
Metro North repairs are nearly complete. Screenshot: Metro North video
A report on CNN.com Tuesday morning describes an emotionally devastated train engineer, distraught over what happened but cooperative with authorities.

A union rep, Anthony Bottalico, speaking on William Rockefeller's behalf said he "was nodding off and caught himself too late."

CNN confirms earlier reports that Rockefeller may have indicated to first responders that he had been in a "daze" and didn't know what happened. Apparently an interrogation with him Monday was halted and resumed the following day because he was so overcome. 

"I think most people are leaning towards human error," Bottalico said in the CNN report. 

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Metro-North Railroad will resume more than 98% of its regular Hudson Line service in time for Wednesday morning’s commute.

“Thanks to an extraordinary effort and around the clock work, over 98% of service will be restored for Hudson Line commuters in time for tomorrow morning’s rush hour,” Governor Cuomo said.

According to Metro North, six AM peak trains will be combined into three, and all customers should expect possible Hudson Line delays of 10 to 15 minutes.

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, the following trains will be cancelled/combined:

· The 7:15 AM from Scarborough to Grand Central Terminal is combined with the7:16 AM train from Croton-Harmon, which will make all stops of both trains. 

· The 7:37 AM from Ossining to Grand Central Terminal is combined with the7:40 AM train from Croton-Harmon, which will make all stops of both trains. 

· The 8:45 AM train from Greystone to Grand Central Terminal is combined with the 8:22 AM train from Croton-Harmon, which will make all stops of both trains.

The Hudson RailLink bus service will serve the Spuyten Duyvil Station, but there will be no parking at that station because of the presence of numerous heavy duty trucks and specialized track equipment needed for the rebuilding effort. 

The work continues with the Track Department installing new ties and running rails, in addition to laying down new rock. New third rail that provides electricity to power the trains will be installed by the Power Department followed by the Signal Department working to restore the signal system. When that work is completed, test trains will be run before service can be resumed. This work will take all day Tuesday and likely run into the next few days. The goal is to restore all tracks as soon as possible.

Meanwhile the railroad will operate all but three of its 175 regular daily Hudson Line trains on a single track.

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The safety briefing Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded today is called a "stand-down," and Metro North will be conducting one Thursday morning.

"It's more than a daily safety briefing," said Metro North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders. "Every worksite, every shop, every gang has a safety briefing every day. They talk about the work to be done. They talk about backing each other up, using proper techniques." 

A full stand-down is rarer.

"It's supposed to be extraordinary. It's supposed to make people really pay attention," Anders said.

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The National Transportation Safety Board turned the crash site over to Metro North, ABC7 News reports. 

Repairs will probably take several days, Metro North said. "Crews are working to completely rebuild the middle track (Track 2) by installing new ties and a running rail, in addition to laying down new rock. Then a new third rail will be installed by the Power Department followed by the Signal Department working to restore the signal system.  When that work is completed, test trains will be run before service can be resumed."

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Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today asked Metro-North for an action plan addressing safety issues on its system.

He also asked that the report from the inspection of the track that followed the Bridgeport derailment be provided immediately, as well as monthly reports of all track, bridge, signal, power, equipment inspection and maintenance action. 

In a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metro-North, the Governor wrote, “Connecticut has invested, and continues to invest, billions in our rail infrastructure, something that I continue to support.  However, given many recent events there is understandably a negative public perception of the railroad infrastructure and state of good repair, coupled with deep concerns for our safety.  While I know that our rail lines meet or exceed the minimum safety requirements set by the Federal Railroad Administration, our goal must go well beyond the minimum.”

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Here is the latest statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the derailment and new safety measures:

Since the crash, the State has been taking new precautions to protect the safety of New York commuters and devoting every resource at our disposal to expedite restoration efforts.

At my direction, the MTA will be implementing a Safety Stand-down that will require all employees to participate in safety briefings.

Since Sunday, other State agencies and authorities have been providing extra support to restore service to the Hudson River Line as quickly as possible, including Port Authority escorts of heavy equipment, extra DOT and Office of Emergency Management workers to help on the scene and DEC personal to monitor any environmental issues.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s tragic crash, New York’s commuters have shown incredible patience. The State will continue work day and night to get things back to normal so New Yorkers are no longer inconvenienced.

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Various news outlets are reporting Tuesday morning that Metro-North engineer William Rockefeller, 46, of Germantown, may have fallen asleep at the wheel before his speeding train derailed Sunday killing four. 

The New York Daily News reports that he was "consciously asleep" or "zoned out" moments before the incident, awaking to brake too late. Enforcement sources reportedly told the Daily News that Rockefeller says he recalls nothing and isn't talking to authorities at this point, on the advice of his union. 

“At this point, we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes,” Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Officials have noted that the train made nine stops successfully before reaching this curve in the Bronx. The train was found, from black box records, to be going 82 mph in a zone that switches from 70 mph to 30 mph.

Investigators are reportedly looking into Rockefeller's cell phone use, doing toxicology tests, and considering the possibility of him logging in too many hours on the job. Rockefeller is said to have an untarnished 11-year record with Metro-North.
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Trying to jumpstart a temporary parking program near Harlem Line train stations, Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner is asking for volunteers who can offer a driveway spot to commuters forced off the Hudson Line by Sunday's deadly train wreck.

Here's the text of his proposal:

Greenburgh is known for our angels. When it snows volunteer snow angels pitch in and help shovel driveways of seniors and the disabled. After last years hurricane we matched those who had no power with those who have power---freezing residents were housed at comfortable  homes within the town. Can't get rid of your TV? Contact our TV angels. They will remove the TV from senior citizen homes and drop it off at the highway garage.

Residents of the villages within Greenburgh take the Hudson line to work. The recent Bronx Metro North train tragedy over the weekend will inconvenience Hudson line commuters who have limited train service to NYC. Many would love to take the train from Scarsdale, Hartsdale, White Plains or North White Plains to NYC. The problem: Lack of parking.

One of our former house angels came up with a great idea: she offered 4 parking spaces at her home until the Hudson line is back in service. She requested that her name not be released  publicly. There may be others who would like to help our neighbors who reside in the river villages. If you live within walking distance of the Hartsdale, Scarsdale, White Plains or N White Plains train station and would be willing to donate some parking spaces at your home to commuters who want to take the Harlem line to work, please advise by e mailing me at pfeiner@greenburghny.com. If you live in the villages and want to take advantage of the program, I will try to match you up with a volunteer parking angel.

This is what community is about---neighbors helping neighbors.

Meanwhile, Metro North continues to run buses between Yonkers and the 242nd subway stop for those still using the limited service on the Hudson Line to get in and out of NYC.

Read more about the derailment on Patch.

Arrangements Set for Derailment Victims Jim Lovell, James Ferrari
Derailed: Ossining Survivor, Commuters in the News
Kensico Dam Commuters: Trains are Crowded but Quiet
$42K Raised for Family of Jim Lovell, Local Train Crash Victim
Montrose Resident: Local Train Crash Victim 'Did Everything for his Family'
Ossining's Sunshine Home Remembers Kisook Ahn, Killed in Derailment
Commuters' Group Concerned About Year of Accidents
Gov. Cuomo: 'Any Parties Involved in Derailment Will Be Held Responsible
Bronx Train Derailment Shuts Metro-North Hudson Line
Victims Were From Cold Spring, Montrose, Newburgh, Queens
Can't Bear the Tough Commute? Work Here in Westchester
Sami December 03, 2013 at 02:20 PM
I respect the idea of unions, but the fact that this guy won't talk to authorities because of advice given to him by his union is total BS. Four people are dead and over 60 injured, and he is worried about his job? He should be, and he should be willing to give them any information they need. Sickening.
Alison Bert December 03, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Lanning, Thanks for such an informative report with "news you can use." I think there's a reason Patch popped up at the top of the list when I searched for info on when the trains might resume service.
laydenecorretti@gmail.com December 03, 2013 at 06:25 PM
That's hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.
JLeo December 03, 2013 at 09:42 PM
This horrible accident furthers proves the importance of having the right people at the controls of our trains and buses. Even with seasoned operators bad things can happen. What happens when less experienced men and women are put in control of these massive machines that can maim hundreds of people at the blink of an eye?
Roy December 04, 2013 at 05:07 AM
Let's have a bit of perspective here. This is Metro-North's first fatal accident since it was formed, three decades ago. It's a tragedy that four people died, but that many and more die on our roads every single day.
Laborers Local 754 December 04, 2013 at 07:24 AM
if all it takes for something like this to happen is one person "nodding off", then there has to be at least dual control of the train.
Brion Travis December 04, 2013 at 08:16 AM
NTSB advises that there are mechanisms available to prevent trains from speeding out of control, no matter what the cause. Common carrier corporations and Government have the resources to implement these devices ASAP! No excuses. No one should die or be severely injured because an operator allegedly "nodded off!" Have dual operators and checks and balances until trains etc. can have mechanical protective devices added.
Brian December 04, 2013 at 08:23 AM
Sami, when Mr. Rockefeller is criminally interrogated(if he hasn't been already) his attorney will probably advise him of the same thing. Obviously, the deceased and injured are an absolute tragedy. But I feel terrible for this man. He is going to have to live with this every day for the rest of his life.
John Anderson December 04, 2013 at 08:53 AM
How in the world did a conductor not "feel' they were speeding?? I'm no electronic engineer and I am not going to go down the endless list of ways I think this could have been prevented, but In this day of high tech, this should not have happened. Why should a train be able to go over 50 MPH anyway???
Tucker J December 04, 2013 at 08:57 AM
The man is acting on advise from his union. Don't vilify him for that. As far as experience, I believe the man has over 20 years Metro north, and at least 10 as an engineer. I think these guys are overworked. They have long, confusing schedules, I know they get a lot of overtime but that always leads to over tired workers.
JLeo December 04, 2013 at 06:43 PM
My point was just that. This engineer had many years of experience and an accident still occurred. If men or women are in control of trains and buses with little experience the odds of something bad happening increases.
C Gajowski December 05, 2013 at 08:51 AM
The issue this exposes is just how archaic the Metro North system is -- anyone could, for instance, have a heart attack or a stroke - or like this man, nod off ( it has happened at some time or other to most drivers - especially on long drives - and it doesn't always correlate with any dangerous behaviors). That an engineer can had a personal issue and the train derail - exposes 19th Century machinery. What is the fail safe device? How could it be that a train barrels into a curve at about 3 times the mandated speed and there are no governors or brakes that kick in automatically? The truth is that the trains and tracks everywhere need drastic improvements. More infrastructure in this country that might be tackled, leading to more jobs and a safer and more efficient environment - if the US chose to spend war money waging a battle against obsolescence

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