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Menendez, Booker Call For Mandatory Sleep Apnea Testing For Train Engineers

HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- After federal investigators cited sleep apnea as the primary cause in recent Hoboken and Brooklyn train crashes, U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) demanded that apnea testing be made mandatory.

"Make safety a priority," Menendez said. "Get federal ownership on sleep apnea testing back on track."

"We are seeing time and time again where sleep apnea is causing major injury and death," Booker said.

Booker said he would also like to see required sleep apnea testing for long-haul truckers. Requiring the testing for engineers was eliminated as part of President Donald Trump's regulation rollback.

On Tuesday, a federal report indicated that the crashes involving an NJ TRANSIT train at the Hoboken Terminal in September 2016, and a LIRR train at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn in January 2017, both involved engineers with sleep apnea.

NTSB member Dr. Nicholas Webster said the engineers of both trains suffered from extreme cases of the condition.

The NTSB blamed NJ TRANSIT and the LIRR for not having required testing in place.

"The public deserves alert operators. That's not too much to ask,'' NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The NTSB also blamed the Federal Railroad Administration for not making sleep apnea testing mandatory.

"Staff believe the NJT and LIRR accidents are further evidence of the hazard that undiagnosed, obstructed sleep apnea pose to transportation safety," Webster said.

Webster also said Positive Train Control measures on the locomotives would have slowed down the trains before the impact.

The NJ TRANSIT crash in Hoboken left one person dead and more than 100 injured. The LIRR crash at Atlantic Terminal also injured more than 100 people.

Both trains were traveling at twice the posted speed limit as they reached the stations. In both cases, the train engineers had no memory of the accident.

The Hoboken and Brooklyn engineers had the sleep apnea risk factor of being morbidly obese but weren't diagnosed with the disorder until after the crashes, NTSB documents show.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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