NTSB blames undiagnosed OSA for two accidents

Friday, February 9, 2018

WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board this week determined that two commuter railroad terminal accidents in the New York area were caused by engineer fatigue resulting from undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea. The NTSB found the two accidents had “almost identical” probable causes and safety issues. The board also determined that these safety issues were not unique to these two properties, but exist throughout the country at many intercity passenger and commuter passenger train terminals. In August 2017 the NTSB expressed its “disappointment” with the withdrawal of a notice of proposed rulemaking by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that sought to require testing for certain commercial drivers and rail workers, stating “Obstructive sleep apnea has been the probable cause of 10 highway and rail accidents investigated by the NTSB in the past 17 years. Medical fitness and fatigue, two of the NTSB’s 10 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements for 2017–2018, are tied to obstructive sleep apnea.” “The traveling public deserves alert operators,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt this week. “That is not too much to ask.” The Sept. 29, 2016, accident on the New Jersey Transit railroad at Hoboken, N.J., killed one person, injured 110, and resulted in major damage to the station. The Jan. 4, 2017, accident on the Long Island Rail Road at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, N.Y., injured 108 people. Both accidents involved trains that struck end-of-track bumping posts and crashed into stations.