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Some Rail Locomotives In N.Y. Derailment Lacked Alert System

NEW YORK (UPI) — Some cars on the commuter train that derailed in New York weren’t equipped with an alert system because it wasn’t required, a spokeswoman for the line said.

About a third of Metro-North cab cars — including the one engineer William Rockefeller was driving during Sunday’s fatal derailment — weren’t equipped with advanced alert systems, which help keep operators focused and have been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board after other train accidents, the Journal News of White Plains, N.Y., reported Thursday.

Of the 996 cab cars in Metro-North’s fleet, 331 are equipped with a “dead man’s switch,” a pedal the operator must keep pressed to keep the train in motion. The remaining 665 cab cars in Metro-North’s fleet have “alerter” systems in which the brakes are activated if the engineer doesn’t respond to beeping signals at certain intervals, the News said.

“All new cars will have alerters” to comply with Federal Railroad Administration regulations, Metro-North spokeswoman Margie Anders said.

Because the cab car in Sunday’s derailment was purchased in 2002, before FRA regulations were effective, the alerter system wasn’t required, Anders said.

“I would think that wherever there is a driver, there should be an alerter. That just makes sense,” Augustine Ubaldi, a railroad engineer at Robson Forensic, a consulting firm in Ohio, told the News. “Why do you have this system in place in the locomotive? Are you only putting it in there because of the federal regulation or because you trying to enhance safety?”

A union official said Rockefeller apparently dozed or lost focus at the controls before his train went off a sharp curve on the southbound tracks in the Bronx, killing four passengers and injuring scores of others.

Metro-North confirmed that Rockefeller was on unpaid leave.

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