Metro North Derailment- One Year Later

On December 1, 2013, an otherwise ordinary early Sunday morning after the Thanksgiving holiday, a southbound Metro North train bound for Grand Central Station from Poughkeepsie derailed just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx. The train engineer, William Rockefeller, who had been employed by Metro North for fifteen years, fell asleep at the controls, (or fell into a trance sometimes called “highway hypnosis), allowing the train to hurtle along the tracks at 82 miles per hour in an area where the speed limit is 30 m.p.h. The derailment was investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the MTA Police, the NYPD and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office to determine if a crime was committed, but none of these agencies found any basis for criminal charges. The brakes on the train were in working order and a check of Mr. Rockefeller’s phone revealed that he was not texting or using his cell phone prior to the crash. Rockefeller awoke just prior to the derailment and attempted to slow the out of control train to no avail as the train went flying off the tracks. Of the more than 100 passengers on the early morning train, four were killed and more than 80 injured. Mr. Rockefeller’s shift had been switched two weeks earlier from a night to the early morning run starting in Poughkeepsie at 5:04 AM. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which certainly contributed significantly to the tragic incident. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system. One year later, Metro North has acknowledged responsibility for the derailment, and 51 of the personal injury claims have been settled. However, two of the wrongful death claims remain unresolved, and there are 35 lawsuits and ten claims which have not settled. In the wake of the derailment, Metro North’s president, Howard Permut, resigned, and was replaced by Joseph Giulietti. In his first public appearance, Giulietti acknowledged that on time performance, not safety, had been Metro North’s main priority. To change that culture, Giulietti announced several measures which have been, or will be, implemented. They include: New speed restrictions throughout the system; Posting of new signs; Installation of a “close call reporting system”, to allow employees to report safety issues confidentially and not fear the risk of being considered a “whistleblower”; A $34.6 million camera system to monitor the actions of engineers, the outsides of cars, and passenger compartments, to assist in the investigation of accidents and criminal activity (the cameras will be installed over a 3 year period); The retention of a medical firm to screen engineers for sleep apnea; Implementation of a crash avoidance system called “Positive Train Control.” With positive train control, the train can be slowed or stopped in emergencies, which would have potentially have prevented the derailment. This installation is not optional to Metro North, as in 2008, Congress passed legislation mandating positive train control by 2015 in commuter and freight rail lines throughout the U.S. If you are injured in a train accident, bus accident, automobile accident, or due to a defective product or dangerous medication contact the dedicated and experienced lawyers at the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 for a free consultation to discuss your case in detail. We will fight the insurance companies and their defense counsel to maximize your compensation for your injuries, lost earnings and earning potential, medical and hospital expenses, and loss of enjoyment of life.