Watch CBS News

Feds: Sleep Apnea Testing Could Have Prevented NJ TRANSIT, LIRR Crashes

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — A lack of required testing for a pernicious sleep disorder was the primary cause of a NJ TRANSIT crash and a Long Island Rail Road crash, federal investigators concluded in a report Tuesday.

The crashes involved a NJ TRANSIT train at the Hoboken Terminal in September 2016 and a LIRR train at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn in January 2017.

NTSB member Dr. Nicholas Webster said the engineers of both trains suffered from extreme sleep apnea, 1010 WINS' Glenn Schuck reported.

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.

"At this time, both Hoboken and Atlantic terminals have been granted exemptions and therefore, are not installing PTC on their terminal tracks," Webster said. "Without any safety devices on terminal tracks, collisions will most likely continue to occur and may result in loss of life."

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.

The NTSB found NJ TRANSIT didn't follow its sleep apnea testing guidelines and the LIRR didn't require testing. It also faulted the federal Department of Transportation for not making testing mandatory. The LIRR has implemented testing since the accident.

In a statement, NJ TRANSIT said it has "cooperated fully with the NTSB's investigation."

"We're looking forward to receiving the final report and will reserve comment until we've had a chance to thoroughly review it," the agency said.

The MTA also issued a statement, saying "the safety of our passengers, our employees, and the general public is our highest priority."

"The MTA has an established and aggressive sleep apnea screening and treatment program for all train and bus operators and locomotive engineers in line with the NTSB's recommendations and we are moving forward with this program, even in the absence of a federal mandate," it said.

In August, President Donald Trump decided to allow individual railroads to decide whether to conduct sleep apnea testing, scrapping a proposal from Barack Obama's administration requiring it.

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

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.