Though several journalists asked the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Member Earl Weener whether the Metro North deadly train derailment in Bronx, NY, on December 1 was due to operator fatigue or lack of sleep, Weener was tight-lipped about the ongoing investigation. During a press conference on December 3, Weener said in regard to a question about the driver’s condition in the seconds before the crash, “We don’t know at this moment….We don’t release the specifics of the [any] interviews until all of the interviews are conducted.”
When asked if the engineer was “fully conscious at all times,” Weener responded, “It’s premature to be able to say, ‘Yes he was or wasn’t.’ That’s what the investigation hopes to determine.”
In response to another query during the press conference about the engineer’s state, Weener said that there was “every indication he would have had time to get full restorative sleep.”
The same day as the press conference, the NTSB pulled the Association of Commuter Rail Employees (ACRE) from being allowed to participate in the investigation in response to the association’s leader Anthony Bottalico telling the media that the engineer reported he “nodded off” while at the train’s helm. ACRE had previously agreed not to reveal or comment on investigative information before the investigation was complete.
“While we value the technical expertise that groups like ACRE can provide during the course of an investigation, it is counterproductive when an organization breaches the party agreement and publically interprets or comments on investigation information,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman in a release. “Our rules exist to avoid the prospect of any party to an NTSB investigation offering its slant on the circumstances of the accident.”