The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has removed the union that represents commuter train drivers from its investigation of a weekend crash on New York’s Metro-North railway.
The agency said it made the decision to remove the Association of Commuter Rail Employees (ACRE) from the investigation because the union’s president, Anthony Bottalico, held a press conference about the accident, violating the NTSB’s non-disclosure rules.
“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 publicly interprets or comments on investigation information," said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman. "Our rules exist to avoid the prospect of any party to an NTSB investigation offering its slant on the circumstances of the accident."
The NTSB has said that the train in question was traveling 82 miles per hour in an area of track that has a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit in the seconds before the accident. The driver of the train has reportedly told investigators that he momentarily lost focus and was “not 100 percent awake” before the crash.
Bottalico said the train driver, William Rockefeller, "was nodding off and caught himself too late," according to a CNN report.
“I think most people are leaning towards human error," Bottalico said according to the network.
The NTSB said on Tuesday afternoon that it was premature to make definitive pronouncements about Rockefeller’s state in the moments before the Metro-North crash.
"The interview is being conducted at this moment, perhaps it's finished by now," NTSB Board Member Earl Weener said during a news conference. "We don't release the information from the interviews until all of the interviews are done."