Metro-North Train Crash Blamed On Sleep Apnea – Could Have Been Avoided



Sometimes, having obstructive sleep apnea and ignoring the warning signs is like putting yourself on a runaway train. Eventually you will crash. In William Rockefeller’s case, his crash would have more tragic consequences, because his train was not a figurative one – he was the engineer of a Metro-North that derailed last year, killing four and injuring dozens more. The deadly and horrific crash happened last December, but the National Transportation Safety Board has just released an official report stating that undiagnosed sleep apnea was the cause of the derailment.

Nothing is worse than finding out that a catastrophe could have been avoided. In Rockefeller’s case there were a lot of signs – signs that not only the engineer noticed, but also that the railroad’s doctors noticed too. Not only that – they moved his shift from the late afternoon to the predawn hours, which for someone with sleep apnea is like giving a blind man the keys to a Porsche and asking him to step on it. Moments before the crash, Rockefeller had fallen asleep – there is no doubt that he couldn’t control the crushing fatigue that is common with obstructive sleep apnea sufferers.

While some modern trains have automatic functions that control and prevent derailments, this was – unfortunately – not one of those trains. Fast asleep and with the speedometer rising to a break-neck speed of 82 mph, the train came to curve in the tracks. The speed limit at this curve is a safe 30 mph – Rockefeller was travelling more the 50 mph above the limit. Four people were thrown from one of the train cars upon impact – the protectant window glazing had failed and they were ejected. Those people died on the scene or shortly thereafter. Sixty-one other passengers were badly injured.

This wasn’t the first crash during that year for Metro-North – there were four others; five in total. All crashes were deadly and all were a result of oversight, lax regulations, and poor monitoring of engineers. In Rockefeller’s case, though, there was more extreme evidence that oversight was to blame – oversight and good old-fashioned negligence. There was even a report hinting that he may have sleep apnea all along, but the railroad did nothing to treat him or adjust his schedule accordingly. These errors would result in loss of life and immeasurable heartbreak.

After the crash, William Rockefeller was officially diagnosed and started undergoing CPAP treatment. He started seeing positive results almost immediately. But it was almost too late – an incredible amount of damage had been done. For millions of other people, though, it is certainly not too late. This is why it is so imperative to get tested. If you have a regular physician, you can take the Home Sleep Test. If you do not, you may want to try the Easy Sleep Apnea Test. Both will ensure that you get properly tested for the disorder, so that you can start under going treatment immediately. In the end, you don’t want to let yourself become a runaway train.