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Conductor in Fatal Train Crash Had Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea, Doctors Find

Clipboard that reads sleep apnea

A New Jersey Transit train crash on September 29 took the life of one woman on the platform and resulted in over 100 people being injured. Federal investigators have been looking into the crash since then, and have recently discovered that the conductor had a common condition that made him a danger on the tracks.

Thomas Gallagher was the conductor of the train that crashed on September 29. Throughout the investigation, he asserted that he did not remember anything about the crash; he could only remember coming to on the floor of the engineer’s cab. The train ride had been unremarkable until the train approached the Hoboken Terminal. Gallagher approached the station traveling at twice the posted speed limit of 10 mph, causing serious damage to the station and train. Gallagher had passed a physical and been cleared to work just months before in July, and told investigators that he felt rested on the day of the accident. Two months later, Gallagher was tested for sleep apnea. Doctors discovered that he had a severe untreated case of the disorder.

While many people think of sleep apnea as nothing more than snoring, the sleep disorder causes the airways to close briefly as the person sleeps, causing sleep to be interrupted. Sleep apnea can result in serious fatigue as a consequence. Often, sleep apnea sufferers fall asleep in short bursts during the day that they cannot later remember. Those with sleep apnea can pose a danger in a number of professions, but few with so dramatic an impact as those who hold dozens or hundreds of lives in their hands.

In a recent statement, the Federal Railroad Agency (FRA) has announced that it will issue a safety advisory on the importance of testing engineers for sleep apnea in order to prevent such tragedies. FRA administrator Sara Feinberg said that the advisory was being issued while regulations that mandate such testing remain under development. New Jersey Transit officials said that they already test for sleep apnea, but could not say whether Gallagher had been previously tested for sleep apnea.

If you have been injured in an accident due to the negligence of a driver in New Jersey, contact the seasoned and effective personal injury lawyer Andrew R. Jacobs for a consultation, at 973-532-9681.

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