US investigators have said the commuter train that derailed in New York on Sunday was traveling at nearly three times the speed it should have when it crashed. Four people were killed and dozens injured in the accident.
National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Monday that the train was traveling 82 miles (131 kilometers) per hour as it entered a curve where the limit was just 30 miles per hour. The speed of the train was obtained from two recorders recovered from the crash site, just north of New York City.
Investigators found that shortly before the crash the train's throttle had gone idle and there was a sudden loss of brake pressure.
"Our investigators will be carefully reviewing all the data to determine the functioning of the brakes throughout the trip and to determine why the throttle went to zero, brake pressure went to zero," Weener said. "At this point, we are not aware of any problems or anomalies with the brakes."
Four people were killed and dozens more injured when the train, which was carrying between 100 and 150 people, crashed Sunday morning on its way south towards Manhattan's Grand Central Station. All seven of the train's cars derailed as it reached a curve near an embankment separating the Harlem and Hudson rivers. The front car stopped just a few feet short of the water.
The four killed in the accident were two men and two women, ages 35 to 59. Three of the victims were thrown from the train.
Exact cause unknown
Weener said the results of drug and alcohol tests for the engineer, 46-year-old William Rockefeller, were not yet available. Investigators were also examining his cell phone in an apparent attempt to determine if he was distracted. Weener added Rockefeller was cooperating fully with authorities and Anthony Bottalico, executive director of the rail employees union, said he was injured in the accident and "totally traumatized by everything that has happened."
The throttle appears to have been let up and the brakes applied too late to prevent the crash, Weener indicated. However, when asked whether the crash was the result of human error or faulty brakes, he said: "The answer is, at this point in time, we can't tell."
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the section of the track where the crash occurred was "dangerous," but that trains take it every day.
"That is a dangerous area on the track just by design," he said. "The curve has been there for many years … and trains take the curve every day."
"We've always had this configuration. We didn't have accidents. So there has to be another factor," he added.
Commuter rail service in the area around the crash remained suspended Monday, as workers lifted the derailed cars and put them back onto the tracks.
dr/jm (AFP, dpa, AP)