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Crashed NY train 'nearly three times over speed limit'

© Photo: National Transportation Safety Board

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-03

A New York commuter train that derailed on Sunday morning, killing four people, was travelling nearly three times faster than the speed limit for the curved section of track where it crashed, officials said on Monday.

A passenger train which derailed in New York on Sunday leaving four people dead was travelling at nearly three times the recommended speed limit when it hurtled off the tracks, federal investigators said on Monday.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Earl Weener said that the train involved had clocked 82 miles (131 kilometres) per hour as it entered a curve in the Bronx borough of New York City where the limit was 30 miles (48 kilometres) per hour.

"We do know that two minutes before the curve the train was going at 60 miles per hour and had accelerated then up to 82 miles per hour prior to entering the curve," Weener said in an interview with CNN.

Investigators also found that shortly before the crash, which also left 67 people injured, 11 of them critically, the train's throttle had gone to idle and there had been a sudden loss in brake pressure.

The brakes of the seven-carriage train were working properly but were applied “very late in the game,” Weener said.

“Our investigators will be carefully reviewing all the data to determine the functioning of the brakes throughout the trip and to determine why the throttle went to zero, brake pressure went to zero," he said.

“At this point, we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes.”

‘So many questions’

US Senator Charles Schumer of New York said he had been stunned to learn how fast the Metro-North commuter train was going before the derailment.

“When I heard about the speed, I gulped,” Schumer said at a press conference in Yonkers, New York, not far from the crash site. “It sort of takes your breath away, for a train to be going 82 miles per hour around that curve is just frightening. And the fact that it was going 82 miles per hour, even in the 70 mile per hour zone before the curve started raises so many questions.”


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said earlier on Monday that the stretch of track involved in the accident was "tricky" but not especially hazardous.

"This was a tricky turn on the system, but it's a turn that’s been here for decades and trains negotiate all day long," he told NBC.

‘Impaled’ by debris

The train, carrying around 150 people, crashed at around 7:20 am (1220 GMT) on Sunday morning just before reaching Spuyten Duyvil station on its way into Manhattan.

The train's seven carriages hurtled off the tracks and flew across a grassy bank separating the railway from the Hudson and Harlem rivers, which meet at that point.

The front coach came to rest only a few feet from the water and two coaches toppled on their side.

Cuomo described the horror passengers experienced as the train skidded at high speed before coming to a rest.

"The windows broke out, the doors opened and they were picking up stones, rock, dirt, tree limbs were flying through the cars," he said.

Some passengers were "impaled" by debris as train cars flew into the air, officials said on Sunday, while others had to be cut free from tangled metal.


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) identified the four victims, who ranged in age from 35 to 59. Two were men, two were women, and all were New York-area residents.

Three of the victims had been thrown from the train.

Driver questioned

Weener said that the NTSB was investigating driver error as a possible cause of the crash and that investigators had begun questioning the driver, who was identified by the Association of Commuter Rail Employees as William Rockefeller. Union leader Anthony Bottalico said Rockefeller had “never been disciplined on his job on the railroad”.

Rockefeller, who is in the hospital, was scheduled to meet with NTSB officials on Wednesday.

"He's very traumatised," Bottalico said. "He's devastated by the loss of life, by the injuries to the passengers and his fellow crew members, and he's extremely upset about all of it."

Rockefeller was tested for drugs and alcohol after the crash, although the results of those tests have not yet been provided to the NTSB, Weener said. As part of standard investigative procedure, officials seized his cell phone.

NTSB officials did not indicate how long their review would take.


Date created : 2013-12-03

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