New York (AFP) – U.S. media pointed Tuesday toward human error as the cause of a deadly commuter train crash in New York, reporting that the driver either fell asleep or “zoned out.”
The train was traveling at nearly three times the recommended speed limit when it derailed early Sunday, killing four people and injuring another 67 passengers, federal investigators say.
The train clocked 82 miles per hour as it entered a curve in the Bronx where the limit was 30 miles per hour.
Investigators are questioning the driver, William Rockefeller, 46, in a process expected to continue for several days.
The New York Post reported that Rockefeller told investigators he had “zoned out” as the train was headed towards the bend.
He was “jolted back to reality” only after a whistle went off warning him he was going dangerously fast, the newspaper said.
A report on New York neighborhood news website DNAinfo.com said investigators believe the driver “dozed off” for a few moments and woke up too late to stop the train hurtling off the tracks.
The train, carrying between 100 and 150 people, had been headed south to Grand Central Station in Manhattan.
Investigators found that shortly before the crash at 7:20 am the throttle of the Metro-North train went into idle and there had been a sudden loss in brake pressure.
The train’s seven cars derailed just before Spuyten Duyvil station and flew across a grassy bank separating the railroad from the Hudson and Harlem rivers, which meet at that point.
The front car came to rest only a few feet from the water and two cars toppled on their side.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday the cause of the crash was most likely “speed-related” and described the horror passengers experienced as the train skidded at high speed.
“The windows broke out, the doors opened and they were picking up stones, rock, dirt, tree limbs were flying through the cars,” he said.
Some passengers were “impaled” by debris as train cars flew into the air, officials have said, while others had to be cut free from tangled metal.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority identified the four dead as two men and two women aged from 35 to 59. All were New York-area residents.
Three of the dead had been thrown from the train.