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Brakes on Deadly Metro-North Train Functioned Properly, Feds Say

By  Janon Fisher and Ben Fractenberg | December 3, 2013 5:28pm | Updated on December 4, 2013 9:41am

 National Transportation Safety Board Member Ed Weener presented new findings at an afternoon press conference Tuesday.
NTSB Metro-North derailment press conference
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MANHATTAN — The brakes on the Metro-North train that derailed, killing four people and injuring dozens of others, were fully operational at the time of the crash, federal crash investigators said.

"Simply put, based on these data there's no indication that the brake systems were not functioning properly," National Transportation Safety Board Member Earl Weener said at a press conference Tuesday.

The train came barreling into the sharp turn near Spuyten Duyvil at 82 mph — nearly three times the speed limit —  on Dec. 1 without the brake being applied until five seconds before the crash.

Engineer William Rockefeller, 46, who had been a train operator for 10 years, had dozed off at the controls on the 20-minute trip between the Tarrytown and Spuyten Duyvil stations, sources told DNAinfo New York.

But Weener would not confirm that the operator was asleep.

"It's premature to be able to say yes he was or no he wasn't," he said.

Anthony Bottalico, a Metro-North union official, told reporters after the press conference that Rockefeller had "nodded" before the crash.

"He caught himself, but he caught himself too late," the Associated Press reported.

The NTSB said that Bottalico's comments violated their confidentiality rules, prompting the agency to oust the union from their investigation which prevents union officials from offering their input, the NTSB said.

Union officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the investigators' decision.

During the Tuesday press conference, the NTSB team seemed to further eliminate mechanical failure as a cause for the crash after their analysis of the braking data from all stations found no problems, Weener said. A preliminary analysis of the other operating systems found them all fully functioning.

Weener would not rule out mechanical error, nor place the full blame for the crash on the engineer.

Crew members, including Rockefeller, 46, whose shift started at 5:45 a.m., did not have any alcohol in their system after the crash, Weener said.

The crew, who have all been interviewed, was also tested for drug use, but the results of those tests have not yet returned. Rockefeller was being interviewed by federal investigators Tuesday afternoon.

The engineer, who has worked for the commuter rail line for 15 years, had been operating the early morning train since Nov. 17, was in the second day of his work week, Weener said.

The NTSB has yet analyze the engineer's cell phone.

Weener said that he was unaware if Rockefeller had retained a lawyer. The MTA said that he has been suspended from the job without pay, but remains a Metro-North employee.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the commuter rail would be up and running at "98 percent" on the Hudson line by Wednesday.