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Drivers in LIRR and NJ Transit Crashes Had ‘Severe’ Sleep Apnea, NTSB Says

(DNAINFO)  Rachel Holliday Smith | September 22, 2017 — The drivers of two commuter trains that crashed last year in Brooklyn and Hoboken, New Jersey, were found to have severe sleep apnea following the collisions that killed one passenger and injured hundreds, new documents from a federal investigation show.

Both train engineers couldn’t recall the moments just before the crashes, they told National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The NTSB on Thursday released hundreds of pages from its investigation of the Jan. 4 Long Island Rail Road crash at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn that injured more than 104 people and the Sept. 26, 2016 New Jersey Transit crash in Hoboken that killed one passenger.

In the reports, medical examiners for the NTSB found both engineers suffered from “severe” obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, which causes drowsiness and fatigue in waking hours due to irregular breathing that interrupts normal sleep.

In tests taken after each crash, medical examiners found the driver in the Atlantic Terminal collision, Michael Bakalo, had about 101 breathing interruptions during sleep per hour; in the Hoboken crash, driver Tom Gallagher had approximately 89 interruptions per hour of sleep. A normal sleeper typically has less than five per hour, according to an apnea guide from the Harvard Medical School.

In each crash, the engineer hit the end of the track as their trains came into a terminal. Both drivers say they don’t remember how the crashes happened.

Source: Drivers in LIRR and NJ Transit Crashes Had ‘Severe’ Sleep Apnea, NTSB Says – Fort Greene – New York – DNAinfo