New York-Area Rail Crashes Blamed on Lack of Apnea Testing

By DAVID PORTER

(AP) – A lack of required testing for a pernicious sleep disorder was the primary cause of two serious train crashes in New Jersey and New York, federal investigators concluded in a report Tuesday as they renewed the call for the testing to be mandatory.

The crashes involving a New Jersey Transit train at the Hoboken terminal in September 2016 and a Long Island Rail Road train in Brooklyn in January 2017 killed one person, injured more than 200 and caused more than $11 million in damage.

In both instances, the train engineers were found to have suffered from undiagnosed sleep apnea, a condition connected to obesity that robs sufferers of sleep and contributes to daytime drowsiness.

The NTSB blamed New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road for not having required testing in place before the accidents. It also blamed the Federal Railroad Administration for not making sleep apnea testing mandatory.

Last year, the FRA abandoned plans to require the testing as part of President Donald Trump’s effort to reduce federal regulations

Neither engineer could remember his train accelerating as it approached the station and smashed into the end of the tracks.

In the Hoboken crash, a woman standing on the platform was killed by falling debris.

“The public deserves alert operators. That’s not too much to ask,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Tuesday.

The NTSB has cited sleep apnea in the probable cause of 10 highway and rail accidents in the past 17 years, including an undiagnosed case in the engineer of a Metro-North Railroad commuter train that sped through a curve and crashed in New York in 2013, killing four people.

In its report Tuesday, the NTSB also cited as contributing factors a lack of safety devices to stop trains from hitting the end of the tracks.

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