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Sleep apnea linked to fatal train crash

Back in September, a train crashed into the platform at the Hoboken Terminal, with a 48-year-old New Jersey Transit engineer at the controls. The speed limit was just 10 miles per hour, but the train was going twice that speed at the time of the crash. Over 100 people were hurt in the wreck, and falling debris struck and killed a woman waiting on the platform.

Now, investigators are saying that the engineer had sleep apnea. The sleep disorder can cause extreme fatigue.

It is worth noting that the engineer said he felt rested when he arrived at work that day. He was given a physical back in July, which he passed. However, he has also said that he doesn't remember the accident. He says that all that he can remember is the aftermath, starting when he woke up and he was lying on the floor of the cab.

Because he's been diagnosed with sleep apnea, the Federal Railroad Administration is now going to warn railroads all over the United States, putting out an official safety advisory and telling them it would be wise to test engineers for the disorder to prevent another accident.

This is not a new rule or a regulation. Railroads don't have to follow it. However, changes to the regulations are being mulled over, and this has been called a stopgap procedure to make sure something is done quickly, giving officials time to consider more permanent changes. They think it may take years to get the proper regulations in place, but screening could still begin sooner than that.

Even when medical disorders cause or at least contribute to accidents, those who are hurt may still be able to seek compensation. When there are many injuries -- more than 100, in this case -- it's critical for people to know their legal options.

Source: CBS News, "Sleep apnea warning issued by regulators after deadly New Jersey train crash," Nov. 21, 2016

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