December 3rd, 2013
10:30 AM ET

'Extreme Speed' Eyed in Fatal Bronx Crash

The commuter train that jumped its tracks in the Bronx was barreling into a curve at nearly three times the posted speed when it derailed, killing four passengers, federal safety officials said Monday.

Preliminary data from the event recorders aboard the train clocked it at 82 mph as it approached the 30-mph curve, where the Hudson and Harlem rivers converge, National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener told reporters. The data show the engineer cut the throttle and slammed on the brakes, but those moves came "very late in the game," Weener said.

"This is raw data off the event recorders, so it tells us what happened. It doesn't tell us why it happened," Weener said.

Investigators questioned the engineer, William Rockefeller, and the rest of the train crew on Monday. Rockefeller told investigators he applied the brakes, but the train didn't slow down, according to a law enforcement official who was at the scene and is familiar with the investigation.

NTSB Expert Mary Schiavo says "It certainly looks like operator error but there certainly could be other reasons why the train was going over speed."

SEE FULL INTERVIEW:

But where are you the safest on a train?

CNN's Chris Lawrence  talks to a former managing director of the NTSB, Peter Goelz, who says the middle car gives you the best odds of being protected if the train smashes into something or gets rear-ended by another train.

For more tips, see video below:

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