A train engineer whose undiagnosed sleep apnea was determined to be a factor in a crash at Hoboken Terminal three years ago that killed one and injured more than 100 others will once again work for NJ Transit, an arbitrator ruled late last month.
Thomas Gallagher was at the controls Sept. 29, 2016, when the train, travelling at twice the speed limit of about 10 mph, crashed through a barrier and hit the station. Falling debris killed a 34-year-old Hoboken woman.
Gallagher was found unconscious in the train and had no recollection of the crash. He was suspended and later fired by NJ Transit but appealed his termination.
During an arbitration proceeding, investigators said Gallagher was not screened for sleep apnea during a checkup a few months before the crash per NJ Transit's own guidelines, NJTV reported.
In an earlier report on the crash*, in 2018, the National Transportation Safety Board found the agency was also partly to blame for failing to install safety equipment that can automatically slow a train traveling too fast in a given area. NJ Transit is currently testing the equipment, known as positive train control.
Gallagher was also found to be at fault, the arbitrator found. While he will once again work for the agency, he will be allowed only to operate empty trains in rail yards. It was left up to NJ Transit to determine whether Gallagher will ever be allowed to operate a train on a passenger route again.
“While NJ Transit opposed the reinstatement of Mr. Gallagher, we are required to comply with the legal decision made by the arbitrator. Under provisions clearly defined in that decision, NJ Transit can and will restrict his duty to non-passenger trains. In addition, the decision lays out rigorous testing and compliance that Mr. Gallagher must adhere to including training and re-certification for operating a locomotive as well as strict medical oversight. NJ Transit will be strictly enforcing compliance in all of these areas," the agency said in a statement.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the report which alluded to positive train control.
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