Derailment

12.02.13

Who’s William Rockefeller, the Engineer Behind the Metro-North Crash?

He’s a Metro-North veteran with a good reputation. Here’s what we know about William Rockefeller, the train engineer at the helm of Sunday’s deadly New York crash.

Early Sunday morning, a Metro-North train heading from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to Manhattan derailed in the Bronx, killing four and injuring 63. As investigators seek answers, William Rockefeller, the veteran Metro-North engineer driving the train, is facing a storm of media attention. Little has slipped out about the man at the helm, but here’s what we do know so far about Rockefeller.

He Was Injured in the Crash

The 45-year-old was injured but conscious when rescue crews responded to the crash. A law-enforcement official told CNN that Rockefeller was coherent and showed no sign of intoxication. After the crash, he was treated and released from New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Medical Center. Anthony Bottalico, director of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, said Rockefeller is “totally traumatized by everything that has happened.”

He Grew Up in Upstate New York

According to Rhinebeck Mayor James Reardon, Rockefeller grew up in the town and his father owned a construction business, where he once worked. He’s now a resident of Germantown in Columbia County and is apparently a volunteer firefighter and rescue worker. “Everything he did, he did in a safe manner,” his uncle, Jan Timothy Rockefeller, said. “Everything with him was safety.”

He’s a Veteran Employee

Rockefeller has worked for Metro-North for around 20 years, and as a train engineer for 15. Bottalico called him “a sincere human being with an impeccable record, that I know of. He’s diligent and competent.” New York Sen. Charles Schumer noted that Rockefeller “has a good reputation.”

He Says the Brakes Failed

When he approached a sharp bend near Spuyten Duyvil Station that requires a speed drop from 70 mph to 30 mph, Rockefeller told officials he applied the brakes but they were unresponsive. He “dumped the brakes,” which is an emergency method to halt all the train’s cars. But on Monday, preliminary data extracted from the train’s black-box recorders suggests it was going 82 mph as it entered the turn, and sources were unofficially citing human error. Investigators said Rockefeller was still being interviewed on Monday, and is, according to Bottalico, “cooperating fully to get to [the wreck’s] root cause.”