According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the engineers involved in two recent major New York City train crashes suffered from undiagnosed sleep apnea. The NTSB released the findings following its investigations into these tragic commuter train crashes where many were killed and countless more were injured. Agency officials announced plans to hold a meeting to discuss how to move forward with this information, to prevent further similar incidents from occurring.
These tragic crashes were widely reported. In one incident in September of 2016, a New Jersey Transit train crashed in Hoboken, New Jersey, killing one person and injuring more than 100 more. Then, in a Long Island Rail Road train crashed, more than one hundred passengers were injured.
According to the NTSB investigation of the New Jersey Transit incident, the brakes were functioning properly and the train was only traveling eight miles per hour just before the crash. However, the train suddenly accelerated and was moving at 20 miles per hour when the train crashed. The NTSB ultimately determined that the engineer had undergone a sleep study the month following the crash and was found to have severe sleep apnea. He also had gained more than 90 pounds in the few years prior to the crash. Although the transit agency requires sleep apnea tests, there was no record of the engineer having undergone one at the required time prior to the crash.
Sleep Disorders Present a Serious Risk
According to the U.S. Institute of Health, sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder, where a sufferer’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep (shallow or interrupted breathing during sleep). Those who suffer from this condition may snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep. There are various types of sleep apnea, depending on the specific cause of the disorder (i.e., physical or mental). The bottom line is that this interrupts a person’s sleep to a degree that they cannot function properly during the day, and may suffer from microsleep incidents during waking hours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being overweight puts people at risk for sleep apnea.
Regarding the second crash involving the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) train that crashed into a bumper in Brooklyn, the train was traveling approximately 10 mph at the time of the crash—twice the speed limit. Afterwards, the engineer was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea. Following the accident, the LIRR started testing all engineers for sleep apnea on a regular basis to prevent further fatalities and injuries. Multiple engineers tested positive for sleep apnea and were referred out for further testing. One informed the LIRR upon their testing that he was already being treated for sleep apnea.
There has been some talk at the federal level of requiring truck drivers and engineers to be screened for sleep apnea, but the current administration decided against pursuing these measures. The NTSB has called for more rigorous sleep apnea screening for train engineers and commercial truckers. In both the cases discussed above, the engineers had no recollection of what happened following the accident.
New Jersey Train Accident Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Represent Victims of Train CrashesIf you or someone you love has been injured in a train crash, you may be entitled to compensation. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact an experienced New Jersey train accident lawyer at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP today at 732-777-0100 or contact us online. From our offices in Toms River, Red Bank, and Edison, we serve clients throughout New Jersey.