Train Engineer Was "Zoned Out" or Sleeping Before Deadly Crash: ReportS

Depending on your source, the engineer of the Metro-North train that crashed Sunday, killing four and injuring more than 60, was either "zoned out" or dozing just seconds before the derailment. The engineer, William Rockefeller, reportedly woke up as the train—then traveling 82 mph—entered a 30-mph bend in the Bronx.

According to authorities who spoke with the New York Post, Rockefeller told investigators he had "zoned out" and was snapped into awareness by a loud whistle, which served as a warning that the train was going too fast. Rockefeller applied the brakes just five seconds before the derailment, according to the train's data recording device.

DNA Info has a similar report, but their sources claim Rockefeller "virtually admitted" to falling asleep as the train travelled through a straightaway, zoned at 70 mph, not far from the curve in the Bronx.

Rockefeller initially said the train's brakes were dysfunctional, but that now appears to be untrue. "We are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes," National Transportation Safetey Board member Earl Weener said, according to the New York Times. Sen. Chuck Schumer added: "The train did make nine stops before coming to this curve. So clearly the brakes were working a short time before."

NTSB investigators have confiscated Rockefeller's cell phone to search for any signs that he was texting or otherwise distracted by it before the crash. Rockefeller also took a drug and alcohol test, but investigators do not believe either was a factor.

Anthony Bottalico, the acting director of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, told the New York Times that Rockefeller, who began his career as a custodian at Grand Central Station, had been an engineer for the early morning shift on Metro-North since just November 17, though he added that Rockefeller had worked the line many times before and knew the route.

[Image via AP]