NTSB: LIRR train was speeding before impact

Kerry Drew reports.

- Federal investigators will be looking into why a packed Long Island Rail road commuter train was traveling erratically at twice the speed limit when it crashed at a rail terminal, injuring more than 100 people.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Ted Turpin said Thursday the train had been traveling at least 10 mph when the train slammed into the end of a platform at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn on Wednesday morning; the terminal's speed limit is 5 mph.

A U.S. official briefed on the investigation said the train had erratically changed speeds in the three minutes before the crash, accelerating and decelerating between 2 and 10 mph.  The official, who was briefed on the investigation but was not authorized to speak publicly about it and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the train was traveling at allowable speeds as it approached the station.

Federal investigators also will test the train's engineer for sleep apnea because he exhibited "typical risk factors" for the disorder, the official said, describing the engineer as overweight and adding his wife had complained he snores at night.

The 50-year-old engineer, whose name wasn't released, told investigators he has no memory of the crash and wasn't using a cellphone at the time, Turpin said.

"The engineer was unable to recall striking the end of the track," Turpin said. "He does recall entering the station and controlling the speed of the train."

The engineer was given a drug test, Turpin said, but the results are not yet known.

103 people were treated for minor injuries after the crash. The most serious injury appeared to be a broken leg.

Train 2817 originating in Far Rockaway, Queens, hit the end of the track at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m.

What lead to the crash is now under investigation. A Fox 5 News camera was rolling when police escorted the man that sources said was driving the train. The officers brought him from the terminal and into a police cruiser.

It is the engineer's responsibility to control the train as it enters the station and should normally be traveling about 5 to 10 mph, said MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast.

At a speed of 10 mph before impact, the train was traveling twice the required limit for that area of the station.

The train was carrying about 600 passengers. It hit the bumping block at the end of track six and continued moving before crashing into a small room, Prendergast said. One axle from the second car of the train also came off.

Video from the scene showed several people being taken away on stretchers. Others were removed to ambulances in wheelchairs.

Eleven of the injured were taken to local hospitals including Brooklyn Hospital, Methodist Hospital and Kings County Hospital.

Gov. Andre Cuomo said the most serious injury appeared to be a broken leg suffered by a woman.

Passenger Aaron Neufeld told FOX 5 NY morning program 'Good Day New York' that there was a loud noise when the crash occurred. Other witnesses said some passengers were sent flying by the impact. Neufeld said he saw smoke in the station after the incident, but did not see an active fire.

Dozens of emergency vehicles were seen outside the station on Flatbush Ave. Several passengers were lined up waiting to be examined by emergency personnel.  

4th Ave., Flatbush and Atlantic Aves had lane closures.

The incident occurred during the morning rush hour at a very busy transit station.  Several subway lines converge at Atlantic Terminal, however, the MTA said New York City subway service was not affected by the crash.

Railroad officials had no immediate information on what caused the derailment.  The LIRR warned that there would be delays into and out of Atlantic Terminal due to the incident but other trains were seen moving into the station on other tracks.  Prendergast said they expected normal service in the terminal during the afternoon commute.


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