En­gi­neer in 2013 de­rail­ment sues rail­road

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

The Columbia County man who fell asleep at the con­trols of a MetroNorth train and caused a de­rail­ment that killed four peo­ple in New York City has sued the rail­road, say­ing its neg­li­gence and care­less­ness led to the ac­ci­dent.

Wil­liam Rock­e­feller is seek­ing $10 mil­lion in the law­suit, which was filed in fed­eral court in Man­hat­tan on Thurs­day, the third an­niver­sary of the ac­ci­dent. The suit says Rock­e­feller, who lived in Ger­man­town at the time, suf­fers from mul­ti­ple in­juries, in­clud­ing post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, as a re­sult of the Dec. 1, 2013, de­rail­ment, which has been blamed on his sleep ap­nea.

Be­sides the four deaths, more than 70 peo­ple were in­jured in the crash.

The law­suit calls MetroNorth neg­li­gent and care­less for fail­ing to provide Rock­e­feller with a safe work­place, and it blames the rail­road for in­creas­ing haz­ards by fail­ing to in­stall au­to­matic brakes. It also says Metro-North re­lied on a de­fi­cient safety cul­ture be­cause it “prizes on-time per­for­mance at the ex­pense of pro­tect­ing rid­ers and work­ers.”

The suit says Rock­e­feller will con­tinue to suf­fer lost wages and ben­e­fits along with pain, suf­fer­ing, men­tal an­guish and de­pres­sion.

Metro-North said Thurs­day that it does not com­ment on pend­ing lit­i­ga­tion.

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred in the Bronx as the train, which orig­i­nated in Pough­keep­sie, went around a curve at about 82 mph. The speed limit on the turn was 30 mph.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Rock­e­feller suf­fered from un­di­ag­nosed sleep ap­nea, a dis­or­der that can cause fa­tigue dur­ing non-sleep hours. Prose­cu­tors de­clined to bring crim­i­nal charges against Rock­e­feller.

An en­gi­neer’s sleep ap­nea also was blamed in the Sept. 29 crash of a New Jersey Tran­sit. That train crashed into the Hobo­ken, N.J., sta­tion killing a woman wait­ing on a plat­form and in­jur­ing more than 100 peo­ple.

Sleep ap­nea suf­fer­ers re­peat­edly are awak­ened and robbed of rest as their air­way closes and their breath­ing stops, lead­ing to dan­ger­ous day­time drowsi­ness. Treat­ments in­clude wear­ing a pres­sur­ized breath­ing mask, oral ap­pli­ances or nasal strips to force the air­way open while sleep­ing. Some se­vere cases re­quire surgery.

Metro-North started test­ing for sleep ap­nea after the De­cem­ber 2013 de­rail­ment.


Train en­gi­neer Wil­liam Rock­e­feller is wheeled away from the de­rail­ment scene in the Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013.

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