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Bronx derailment

Union official: Engineer was 'nodding' before derailment

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In this photo taken on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, Metro North Railroad engineer William Rockefeller is wheeled on a stretcher away from the area where the commuter train he was operating derailed in the Bronx. (AP Photo/Robert Stolarik) In this photo taken on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, Metro North Railroad engineer William Rockefeller is wheeled on a stretcher away from the area where the commuter train he was operating derailed in the Bronx. (AP Photo/Robert Stolarik)
NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

The engineer who was operating the Metro-North train that derailed in the Bronx on Sunday caught himself "nodding" at the controls ahead of the deadly crash, according to a union official.

William Rockefeller "caught himself, but he caught himself too late," said union leader Anthony Bottalico, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier, DNAinfo.com reported that the engineer had dozed off for a few moments and woke up too late to stop the train.

The New York Post reported that Rockefeller had "zoned out" before the deadly incident. Sources told the Post that Rockefeller said he "was in a daze" and was jolted back to reality only after a whistle went off in the front of the train warning him that he was going too fast.

Four passengers were killed and more than 60 injured when the commuter train heading to Manhattan from Poughkeepsie derailed Sunday morning near the Spuyten Duyvil station.

The train was traveling 82 mph as it approached a curve where the derailment occurred with a 30 mph speed limit, said the NTSB.

Investigators have been interviewing crew members, but NTSB officials would not disclose what the engineer had told them.

The throttle went to idle six seconds before the derailed train came to a complete stop — "very late in the game" for a train going that fast" — and the brakes were fully engaged five seconds before the train stopped, saidNational Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener

He said investigators were also examining the engineer's cellphone — apparently to determine whether he was operating the train while distracted.

Asked whether the tragedy was the result of human error or faulty brakes, Weener said: "The answer is, at this point in time, we can't tell."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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