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Hoboken NJ Train Engineer Had Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

The engineer running a New Jersey Transit train that slammed into Hoboken Terminal in September had a undiagnosed sleep disorder, according to his attorney this week. 

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The engineer, Thomas Gallagher, recently discovered that he had severe sleep apnea. The test results that confirmed the disorder were sent to federal authorities on Oct. 31.

Gallagher stated that he did not remember the crash at all, and he believes that the sleep disorder may have led to the accident that killed one and injured more than 100.

His attorney stated that the engineer believes that the sleep disorder caused him to black out just before the crash. Gallagher said that he remembered checking his speed as he should just  before pulling into the terminal, blowing the whistle and ringing the bell. The next thing he remembered, he was on the floor of the engine after the accident.

The train smashed into the station in the middle of a busy morning commute. The person who died was on the train platform and was struck by debris. Other commuters also were injured by flying debris, and some passengers on the train also were injured.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea can be a serious danger for professionals who operate trains, trucks, airplanes or other commercial transportation. The condition involves pauses in breathing during sleep, which causes the person to wake up. This can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day.

The Federal Railroad Administration or FRA stated this week that it would release a new safety advisory to urge railroads to more aggressively fight worker fatigue and to install cameras in trains.

Our View

As railroad accident attorneys in Virginia, we wish that the train engineer had been diagnosed with his sleep apnea condition as it could have saved lives. Also, this tragic train accident is another reminder of the importance of commuter trains installing Positive Train Control or PTC.

This system would automatically stop a train before it is able to speed excessively or to run a red signal. PTC was supposed to be installed on at least 25 US passenger train systems by the end of 2015, but it has now been delayed until 2018.

We hope that PTC will be installed on major commuter rail systems as soon as possible so that serious train accidents and derailments can be prevented. Our railroad attorneys have worked on major train accident cases involving large financial settlements and verdicts, and we would like to see fewer of these tragedies happen.