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NTSB: Operator's Sleep Disorder Led to Deadly Bronx Derailment

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TWC News: NTSB: Operator's Sleep Disorder Led to Deadly Bronx Derailment
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The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday ruled the operator of a Metro North train that jumped the tracks last year in the Bronx, killing four people, had suffered from undiagnosed sleep apnea. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

"Five accidents in one railroad in less than a year begged the question, 'How important was safety at Metro North?'" asked National Transportation Safety Board Acting Chairman Christopher Hart.

The answer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board: not very.

On Tuesday, the federal agency blasted Metro-North's rotten safety record from 2013 into this year. That's a stretch marked by two worker deaths, a collision between two trains in Connecticut and a pair of derailments along the commuter railroad's tracks in the Bronx.

"Time and again in these investigations, we saw regulatory and oversight lapses that the NTSB had warned about before," said Hart.

"The NTSB report represents a horror house of negligence," said Senator Charles Schumer.

The December derailment killed four passengers and injured more than 60, when a train going 82 miles per hour in a 30 mile-an-hour curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station whipped off the tracks while operator William Rockefeller dozed, thanks to an undiagnosed case of severe sleep apnea.

"The Metro North protocols and Federal Railroad Administration regulations still in place today require vision and hearing testing every three years for safety-sensitive personnel. But there is no requirement whatsoever to screen for sleep disorders."

Come December, that will change for the commuter railroad. Not so for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The head of Metro North says the railroad has already embarked on a series of safety improvements over many months. Among them—just this week, naming for the first time, a Metropolitan Transportation Chief Safety Officer. That gentleman, a former top official with the NTSB, starts his job December 1, the anniversary of the deadly Metro North Bronx derailment.

"We have been extremely aggressive in taking on all the safety issues. I have stood before you and told you that trains would not go out of here unless they were safe and our trains are safe," said Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti.

The report says trains were, in fact, lacking in that area with Metro-North's priorities out of line.

"The emphasis was on, 'on time, on time, on time!'" Schumer said.

That's changing, the MTA insists. But what's not? That miserable 2013.

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