There will now be one fewer hand in the all-hands-on-deck effort to find out what caused the Metro-North derailment. The National Transportation Safety Board has barred the Association of Commuter Rail Employees from further involvement in the investigation. ACRE general chairman Anthony Bottalico broke one of NTSB’s big rules: Keep your mouth shut until the investigation is finished.
Bottalico gave a press conference and fielded several interviews on Tuesday, giving details about the possibility that the train’s engineer William Rockefeller “nodded” at the controls. Rockefeller, a veteran engineer, had begun running the Poughkeepsie Metro-North route just two weeks ago, NPR reports.
“He caught himself, but he caught himself too late,” Bottalico said at a press conference. “He put the train in emergency, but that was six seconds prior to derailment.”
Bottalico claimed to be relating information directly from Rockefeller, all information meant to be kept secret until the end of the investigation.
“While we value the technical expertise that groups like ACRE can provide during the course of an investigation, it is counterproductive when an organization breaches the party agreement and publically interprets or comments on investigation information,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman in a statement. “Our rules exist to avoid the prospect of any party to an NTSB investigation offering its slant on the circumstances of the accident.”
ACRE represents Metro-North’s conductors, assistant conductors, power directors, yardmasters, engineers, rail traffic controllers, signalmen, and assistant stationmasters.
The investigation will take 10 days total before NTSB fully determines the cause of the crash. Speed was almost certainly a factor — the train took a 30-mile-per-hour curve at 82 miles-per-hour — as was, potentially, the function of the brake system.