NTSB: 'We don't know' yet about train driver's condition

The National Transportation Safety Board (NSTB) declined to confirm reports on Tuesday that the driver of a New York Metro-North train temporarily lost focus before a fatal accident on the railway over the weekend.

NTSB Member Earl Weener said it was "premature" to make definitive statements about the condition of the driver to the Metro-North train, which investigators have said was speeding before it derailed on Sunday.

"The answer to that is we don't know at this moment," Weener said when he was asked about reports the driver told investigators he was "not 100 percent awake" in the moments before the train crash.

"The interview is being conducted at this moment, perhaps it's finished by now," Weener continued. "We don't release the information from the interviews until all of the interviews are done."

Weener is leading the agency's investigation of the Metro-North crash, which resulted in the deaths of four passengers and injuries to about 70 others.

Weener said the NTSB had conducted drug and alcohol members on all the crew members of the Metro-North train, and thus far, found no troubling results.

"The results from the alcohol breath test were all negative," Weener said. "The other tests are still pending."

The driver of the Metro-North train has been identified as William Rockefeller. Weener said the driver had 15 years experience with the Metro-North, working for the last ten as a train engineer.

Weener said Sunday's ill-fate trip from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. to New York City was Rockefeller's second day of a five-day work week. The Metro-North Hudson River line, which is named after the river it parallels for a large portion of its tracks, was Rockefeller's regular route.

Weener said Tuesday that the driver reported to work at 5:04 a.m. and the train left on time at 5:54 a.m.

Rockefeller was scheduled to make two round trips on Sunday. 

The NTSB has said that the train was traveling 82 miles per hour in an area of track that had a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit in the seconds before the crash.

Weener said it was too early to make firm pronouncements about Rockefeller's condition in the moments leading up to the train crash, however.
"Was he aware at all times? It's premature to be able to say yes he was or wasn't," Weener said. "That's what the investigation hopes to determination.