NYC train derailment kills 4 people, injures 70

NEW YORK (AP) — A second data recorder was retrieved Monday from a New York City commutertrain involved in a deadly derailment, and investigators planned interviews with the engineer and conductor in their search for the cause of the crash.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he thinks speed will turn out to be a factor.

Four people were killed and 60 others were injured Sunday morning when the train derailed on a bend in the borough of the Bronx. It was the latest accident in a troubled year for the second-biggest U.S. commuter railroad, which had never experienced a passenger death in an accident in its 31-year history.

The two data recorders may provide information on the speed of the train, how the brakes were applied and the throttle setting, said Earl Weener, a board member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB was downloading data from a recorder previously found in the rear locomotive in thetrain. A second recorder was found in the front car of the train and has been sent to Washington for analysis, Weener said.

Weener said investigators have already had some success in retrieving data, but the information has to be validated before it’s made public.

Investigators plan to conduct interviews Monday or Tuesday with the engineer and conductor, Weener said. He also said clues could be found from a signaling system operated by dispatchers at a central location.

Workers began the arduous task of righting the toppled rail cars.

Officials warned the 26,000 weekday riders on the affected line to brace for crowded trains on Monday morning. However, Metro-North Railroad spokesman Aaron Donovan said no major delays were reported during the early part of the rush hour.

About 150 people were on board when the train derailed Sunday morning on Metro-North’s Hudson line.

The NTSB said its investigators could spend up to 10 days probing all aspects of the accident that toppled seven cars and the locomotive. The speed limit on the curve is 30 mph (48 kph), compared with 70 mph (113 kph) in the area approaching it, Weener said.

Cuomo said on NBC’s “Today” show that he thinks speed was a factor. The governor, speaking from the crash site for a second day, said other possible factors ranged from equipment failure and operator failure to a track problem.

“It was actually much worse than it looked,” Cuomo said.

“As the cars were skidding across the ground, they were actually picking up a lot of debris, a lot of dirt and stones and tree limbs were going through the cars so it actually looked worse up close,” he said, calling it “your worst nightmare.”

In their efforts to find passengers, rescuers shattered windows, searched nearby woods and waters and used pneumatic jacks and air bags to peer under wreckage.

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority identified the victims as Donna L. Smith, 54; James G. Lovell, 58; James M. Ferrari, 59; and Ahn Kisook, 35. Three of the dead were found outside the train; one was inside.

Lovell, an audio technician, was traveling to Manhattan to work on the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, longtime friend Janet Barton said. The tree-lighting ceremony is Wednesday night.

The “Today” show expressed condolences to the family of Lovell, a married father of four who had worked on the program and other NBC shows.

Though the cause of the crash is not yet known, the NTSB has been urging railroads for decades to install technology that can stop derailing caused by excessive speed, along with other problems.

A rail-safety law passed by Congress in 2008 gave commuter and freight railroads until the end of 2015 to install the systems, known as positive train control. PTC is aimed at preventing human error — the cause of about 40 percent of train accidents. But the systems are expensive and complicated. Railroads are trying to push back the installation deadline another five to seven years.

Metro-North is in the process of installing the technology. It now has what’s called an “automatictrain control” signal system, which automatically applies the brakes if an engineer fails to respond to an alert that indicates excessive speed.

Sunday’s accident came six months after an eastbound train derailed in Connecticut, and was struck by a westbound train. The crash injured 73 passengers, two engineers and a conductor. In July, a freight train full of garbage derailed on the same Metro-North line near the site of Sunday’s wreckage.

(Copyright 2013  Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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