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Hudson Line Service To Resume Wednesday As NTSB Continues Probe

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TWC News: Hudson Line Service To Resume Wednesday As NTSB Continues Probe
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As federal investigators continue to examine the deadly Metro-North train derailment in the Bronx over the weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo says regular service along the Hudson Line will resume for Wednesday morning's commute.

The governor says workers have been able to clear debris, rebuild tracks and restore one of the three tracks in the area that was not significantly damaged in the accident.

In a statement, Cuomo said, in part, "As the NTSB continues its investigation of the derailment on Sunday morning, the MTA is fully cooperating to ensure we find out exactly what caused this horrific incident that took the lives of four individuals and injured many others."

"The extraordinary work of Metro-North forces has enabled a rapid resumption of service and I commend them," said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast.

The service restoration comes as the National Transportation Safety Board held its final on-site media briefing Tuesday, where they confirmed that alcohol breath tests for the engineer and other crew members came back negative.

Other tests are still pending.

Despite published reports earlier in the day, sources tell NY1 that the engineer was not asleep or distracted by his cellphone at the time of the incident.

A union representing the engineer confirmed that William Rockefeller "lost his focus" moments before the train approached the dangerous curve in Spuyten Duyvil.

"He had the equivalent of what we all have when we drive a car, and that is that sometimes, you have a momentary nod or whatever that might be. How long it lasts, I can't answer that. Only Billy can," said Anthony Bottalico with the Association of Commuter Rail Employees. "He caught himself, but he caught himself too late. He powered down, he put the train in emergency, but that was six seconds prior to derailment."

The union said that Rockefeller is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board and being honest that he lost focus while driving the train.

"I don't think Billy's a daydreamer," Botallico added. "That's something that I think we all should wait 'til the interview to come out."

The NTSB has now removed the union from participating in the investigation, saying that those comments violated confidentiality rules.

Initial reports said that Rockefeller told investigators that the train's brakes failed, but the NTSB on Tuesday said no "anomalies" had been found with the train's brake system or track signals so far, and said that the brakes were properly checked by Metro-North before and during the trip.

Investigators also said the brakes were applied far too late to stop the accident.

Rockefeller worked for Metro-North for 15 years, and worked as an engineer for 10 years.

The NTSB says Rockefeller was operating his regularly scheduled route, which he had been on since November 17, and was on his second day of a five-day work week. They say he reported to work at 5:04 a.m. on Sunday and that the train left on time from Poughkeepsie at 5:54 a.m.

Rockefeller, according to sources, was "well rested" and fully compliant under the federal hours of service law when he made his first of two runs Sunday.

Under that law, engineers on passenger railroads must have had at least eight consecutive hours off duty during the previous 24 hours, and if an employee has been on duty for at least 12 consecutive hours, he or she must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before returning to the job.

Late Tuesday, the Federal Railroad Administration said that it's developing a rule that would require rail carriers to have programs in place to manage employee fatigue.

The NTSB has said the train Rockefeller was operating was traveling at 82 miles per hour in a zone where the maximum speed is 70 miles per hour.

Trains are then supposed to slow down to 30 miles per hour on the curve.

The train's last stop before the derailment was 14 miles north in Tarrytown.

The derailment killed four people and injured dozens of other passengers, some critically.

Botallico said that Rockefeller is "not a villain" and that he is distraught by the derailment that led to four deaths.

"He was very traumatized by everything," Botallico said. "He was really affected by the loss of life."

NY1 obtained exclusive video showing the train's severely damaged cars being slowly hauled away Monday.

The NTSB has released the track back to Metro-North to begin repairs.

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