December 1, 2013 11:37 pm -

william-rockefeller-engineer-metro-northThe early Sunday derailment of a commuter train on the Metro-North line that connects New York City with its northern suburbs left four people dead and over sixty injured, some critically. Details are beginning to emerge, including word that the engineer claims he applied the brakes before a sharp turn:

A Metro-North train whipped around a sharp turn in the Bronx on Sunday morning just before a deadly derailment that killed four, injured dozens and tossed passengers around like rag dolls.

The engineer at the controls of the train headed toward Grand Central Terminal told supervisors that he tried to apply the brakes, a source told the Daily News. But the train didn’t slow down as it took the curve just north of the Spuyten Duyvil station at about 7:20 a.m.

“It’s definitely human error,” a different source told The News. “The speed was excessive.”

All seven of the train’s cars and its locomotive derailed. One train car flipped down a river bank, coming to rest just inches from the water where the Harlem River meets the Hudson.

“We were going so fast around that turn, something wasn’t right,” said Kathleen Jones, 60, a nurse’s aide from Poughkeepsie. “All of a sudden everyone went flying. We were dragging on the ground, people were landing on each other. Then there was dirt everywhere.”

Two women and two men were killed in the crash, a law enforcement source said. Among the dead was James Lovell, 58, husband of a councilwoman in Philipstown in Putnam County. A father of four and a screenwriter, he was also a lighting designer.

The engineer’s uncle is defending his nephew in the wake of claims of human error:

The engineer at the helm of Sunday’s derailed Metro-North train must be telling the truth about slamming on the brakes, his loyal uncle said.

Jan Timothy Rockefeller said his nephew, William Rockefeller Jr., a 15-year Metro-North veteran, always thought about safety first.

“If he said the brakes failed, the brakes failed. He doesn’t lie,” said Rockefeller, 49.

D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.