NEW YORK -- A passenger train that derailed in New York City, killing four people, was traveling 82 mph as it entered a curve where the speed limit is 30 mph, and the brakes were not fully applied until seconds before the cars came to a stop off the tracks, federal investigators said Monday.
Earl Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board stressed that the information so far was “preliminary,” but he said the details of the Metro-North train’s speed and brakes came from two “event recorders” that investigators were able to retrieve after Sunday’s crash in the Spuyten Duyvil neighborhood of the Bronx.
Four passengers were killed and dozens of people were injured, several critically. After the Sunday morning crash of the Metro-North 8808 train, which had left Poughkeepsie at 5:54 a.m., some survivors said they felt the train was moving too quickly.
The derailment occurred on a curve along the track, where the speed limit drops to 30 mph from 70 mph on the straight section of track.
At a news briefing, Weener said the train’s engineer had been interviewed, but he did not give details of the interview. He said the information from the event recorders “tells us what happened. It doesn’t tell us why it happened.”
He also said it was not yet known if the speed and the late application of the brakes were the result of mechanical failure or operator error. “That’s the question we need to answer,” Weener said.
He was joined at the news conference by Sen. Charles Schumer, who said NTSB investigators had not indicated there were any major problems with the tracks.
“When I heard about the speed, I gulped,” Schumer said. “It sort of takes your breath away. For a train to be going 82 mph around that curve is just a frightening thought.”
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