Engineer’s Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea Is Likely Cause of Hoboken NJ Transit Train Crash and Derailment

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The NJ Transit train crash and derailment in Hoboken was a catastrophic accident that caused injury to at least 100 individuals and killed one. The damage to the train station was extensive and the accident served as yet another blow to public trust in the safety of the nation’s commuter rail service providers. This crash came just several months after the Amtrak derailment outside of Philadelphia and several other high-profile accidents.  

Perhaps the most vexing aspect of this accident was the fact that, like the Philadelphia train derailment, the accident initially unexplained. In fact, it seemed that both engineers were model employees. Furthermore, it seemed that both engineers did everything they were supposed to until the moment of the accident. Now, details have finally emerged regarding the factors the led to the deadly New Jersey Transit train crash. Unfortunately, the details point to a risk that can affect the safety of all modes of transportation.  For further information on recovering compensation from a severe injury as a result of a train accident, contact a Philadelphia train accident attorney of The Reiff Law Firm.

Sleep Apnea Condition Likely Caused the Engineer to Lose Consciousness

According to information released by the attorneys for the train engineer who was operating the ill-fated train at the time of the crash, the engineer has a severe and previously undiagnosed sleep apnea condition. The test results suggest that in the moments before the crash, the engineer had lost consciousness and was, therefore, unable to control the train as it approached the Hoboken terminal.

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These medical results seem to comport with the engineer’s statements and recollections of the event. According to his lawyer, the engineer has stated that:

 [The diagnosis] made sense to him because of his experience with the crash that he did everything that he would normally do. He checked his speed, blew the whistle, rang the bell, and the next thing he knew he was on the floor.”

While National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has reviewed the accident and is currently investigating all information and leads, it has not announced a formal cause of the accident. However, this is a troubling incident because there are close parallels found in a 2013 Metro-North Railroad crash. In that accident, the engineer was also found to have undiagnosed sleep apnea. This raises the question as to how these individuals are slipping through medical screening and fitness procedures? While diagnosed sleep apnea can often be managed, the condition is extremely dangerous when it remains undiagnosed and untreated.

Sleep Apnea Is a Serious Safety Risk on the Rails, Highways, and in the Sky

The problems caused by sleep apnea include extreme drowsiness and fatigue regardless of how long the individual sleeps or attempts to sleep. Sleep apnea can lead to an individual falling asleep unexpectedly  — even when they are engaged in a task, activity, or conversation with another person. For individuals in safety-sensitive occupations, it is essential that the condition is screened for and, if diagnosed, managed with treatment options that may include the use of an APAP or CPAP device.

Sleep apnea is so dangerous because an individual can go years feeling fatigued or “just not right” but have no clear indication regarding what is behind his or her malaise. In reality, there are two types of sleep apnea that can both produce similar symptoms and effects. Central sleep apnea is caused by neurological defects that result in the brain failing to inform the body to continue breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea is the second variant of this condition and is caused when an individual’s muscles relax in such a way that the airway becomes blocked. When sleep apnea is present, the individual will wake in dozens or hundreds of short micro-awakenings preventing the individual from ever getting a good night’s rest.

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For any individual that drives, operates machinery, or engages in any safety-sensitive task the consequences of a sleep apnea condition can be deadly. Even when sleep apnea is mild to moderate and does not result in unexpectedly falling asleep, merely being fatigued has profound impacts on safety outcomes. Individuals who are tired have dulled reflexes and take more time to process information and react. Whether the individual is a commercial motor vehicle driver who is operating an 18-wheeler or bus, an airline pilot, or a train engineer uncontrolled sleep apnea presents a serious risk to all in the vicinity of the fatigued operator.

Injured by a Fatigued Truck, Bus, or Train Operator and Seeking a Philadelphia Train Accident Lawyer?

If you have suffered a severe injury due to an inattentive, fatigued operator of a commercial truck, bus, or train, an NJ Transit train crash lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. For more than three decades our legal team has stood up to hold responsible parties financially accountable for the injuries they cause. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call the attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 or online today.

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