Commentary on transportation in Connecticut and the Northeast by JIM CAMERON, for 19 years a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council.
Jim is also the founder of a new advocacy effort: www.CommuterActionGroup.org
Disclaimer: his comments are only his own. All contents of this blog are (c) Cameron Communications Inc
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December 11, 2013
Derailment Kills Four... But Who's To Blame?
It could have been you or me that
died in that derailment in the Bronx December 1st.Instead, it was Jim Lovell, Donna Smith,
James Ferrari and Kisook Ahn who lost their lives riding that train.
It will be months before the NTSB
finishes its investigation of what happened and why, but it is clear that
it could have been prevented.But why
None of us yet has the answers,
but there are plenty of questions:
·Why did engineer William
Rockefeller first claim that the train’s brakes
had failed only later to claim he had “zoned out”?Which of those explanations was a lie and
which an excuse?
·Why did the engineer’s union go
to the press to plead his case, only to be kicked
out of the NTSB’s investigation for breaking the rules?Is this a PR case study or a forensic investigation?
·Why did his train’s controls lack
an alerter system that would have warned him that he was going 80 mph
approaching a 30 mph curve?
·Why was Metro-North President Howard
Permut noticeably absent at the crash scene and subsequent NTSB press conferences
for five days after the deadly crash?Isn’t he responsible for this railroad? [Correcton: see Comment #3 below this posting]
·Why didn’t Mr. Permut and MTA
Chairman Thomas Prendergast attend the wakes and funerals
of those who died on their railroad?How
do they keep their jobs when employee morale is as low as passenger confidence?
·Why does Metro-North have such a dismal
record of disciplining engineers who violate its rules, suspending only 49
and firing one in a four year period while the LIRR suspended 884 and fired 12
over the same period?
Since that Sunday morning
high-speed derailment, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster from
depression and grief to anger and disbelief.Nobody seems to be accepting responsibility for what happened and yet everybody
is to blame.
Engineer Rockefeller, with an
record, made a deadly mistake that will haunt him the rest of his
life.His union argues it was a medical
condition, so he’s not criminally negligent so he may never stand trial.
Metro-North management argues that
speed alerters are not required on older trains, though they certainly seem
necessary and will probably be retrofitted.
With PR chutzpah, Metro-North
says the last five months of disasters don’t blemish 30+ years of safe
operations… that they are anomalies.Really?The voyage of the Titanic
was so smooth until they hit that iceberg.
Does anyone really believe all
these calamities are just bad timing? Am I the only one who sees a pattern that
worsens with each passing month?
After the July 2011 stranding of
a train near Westport (on the hottest day of the year) when passengers felt so
abandoned by Metro-North they called 911 to be rescued by fire fighters, I
asked a simple question:Is
it time to fire Metro-North?
Until now, two years later,
nobody has taken that question seriously. Why?
As I wrote in my
last column explaining my recent resignation from the CT Commuter Rail
Council, “Metro-North and the Connecticut
DOT are in a conspiracy of silence and obfuscation”.
Who’s to blame for the death of those
Everybody who has failed to
change that situation.