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LIRR train was going faster than speed limit, says NTSB

National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge Ted Turpin, left,

National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge Ted Turpin, left, speaks at a news conference on Jan. 5, 2017, about the LIRR train that derailed in Brooklyn. Emergency personnel, right, tend to injured commuters after the crash on Jan. 4. Credit: Charles Eckert; Theodore Parisienne

The engineer of the LIRR train that crashed through a barrer at Atlantic Terminal, injuring 103 passengers, was traveling more than twice the speed limit, NTSB officials said Thursday.

National Transportation Safety Board Investigator Ted Turpin said the unidentified locomotive engineer, who has worked for the Long Island Rail Road for 18 years, was interviewed Thursday but “was unable to recall striking the end of the track” Wednesday morning in Brooklyn.

“He does recall entering into the station and controlling the speed of the train. And the next thing he realized was after the collision,” Turpin said of the 50-year-old engineer, who he described as “very cooperative.”

Using data collected from two event recorders recovered from the train, NTSB investigators also determined it was going “more than 10 miles per hour” when it struck a bumping block at the end of the tracks. LIRR officials have said the speed limit in that area was 5 mph.

“There’s nothing as part of that bumper that has, like, hydraulics. There’s nothing that will cushion a train collision,” Turpin said at the briefing in a downtown Brooklyn hotel.

Moriches railroad safety expert Carl Berkowitz, said, though just 5 miles per hour over the speed limit, the difference in velocity is “significant.”

“If you’re standing on the platform, to your eye that train is zipping by,” Berkowitz said. “For a person standing, going at 10 miles per hour and suddenly stopping, that’s tremendous force.”

There were no serious injuries in the rush-hour crash.

FDNY officials said LIRR Train No. 2817, which originated in Far Rockaway, lifted off the tracks and crashed through a small room at the station. The impact of the crash threw several commuters on the train, which was carrying about 430 passengers.

A Brooklyn Hospital Center spokeswoman said that all of the 35 people treated there for injuries sustained in the accident were discharged Wednesday.

Turpin said four of the six cars on the electric train have already been removed from the crash site, but that teams are “going to have challenges” removing the lead two cars, which are not powering up. An additional event recorder in the front car was “compromised horribly,” Turpin said.

He said the train was inspected at the site, and that the four cars that were removed would be powered up and tested for their functionality, included brakes, on Friday.

After having three days off, the engineer was nearing the end of a shift that began around midnight, Turpin said. The engineer had been working night shifts for more than a decade, and operating on that specific route for a year, he said.

Turpin added that the engineer told investigators he was not using his cellphone at the time of the accident, but investigators have not yet verified that. The engineer underwent a toxicology test, but results were not yet available. Information about the engineer’s medical history, including whether he had a sleep disorder, “takes longer” to retrieve, Turpin added.

Kevin Sexton, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division 269, which represents 400 Long Island Rail Road engineers, did not respond to a request for comment.

Investigators still have to interview remaining members of the three-person train crew, as well as LIRR employees who witnessed the accident from the station platform.

NTSB officials have said they expected to remain at the scene for up to seven days.

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