The engineer of a New Jersey commuter train that slammed into a busy station, killing a woman standing on the platform, was suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder, his attorney said Wednesday.
“My client was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea just recently, during an examination by an expert that I arranged after the accident. Those results were forwarded to the NTSB on Oct. 31,” lawyer Jack Arseneault said in a statement.
Thomas Gallagher, 48, told investigators he remembered nothing except waking up on the floor after his train slammed into the crowded Hoboken station on September 29.
“The diagnosis made sense to Mr. Gallagher in light of the fact he couldn’t remember anything about the crash,” Arseneault said. “The last thing he remembers was checking his speed at 10 mph and blowing the horn then ringing the bell as he approached the station.”
Investigators said the train blew into the station at twice the normal approach speed of 10 mph.
National Transportation and Safety Board authorities are looking into sleep apnea as the cause of the crash that injured more than 100 people, The Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed federal official.
Sleep apnea causes severe daytime drowsiness because sufferers don’t get sufficient rest at night. Their throats close and their breathing stops, causing them to repeatedly wake up.
The disorder went undiagnosed in the engineer of a New York commuter train that crashed on a curve in 2013, killing four people.
NJ Transit declined comment on the engineer’s diagnosis Wednesday, citing the ongoing investigation.
The commuter line has a sleep apnea screening program, but it’s not clear if Gallagher was tested, the wire service reported.