NJ Transit Can’t Fire Engineer Who Caused Crash That Killed Woman
NEWARK — The NJ Transit engineer who caused the fatal 2016 Hoboken train crash is getting back his job.
Thomas Gallagher won his arbitration case after he was fired following the crash that killed a woman walking through the station and injured 108, according to the NTSB's ruling obtained by NJ.com. He told investigators that he blacked out due to an undiagnosed sleep apnea disorder.
The revelation that Gallagher suffered from sleep apnea led to strict testing and guidelines for all 373 NJ Transit engineers and conductors at the time. The agency sidelined 57 operators pending a sleep study. A pulmonologist determined 44 required treatment and did not return to work until they met compliance requirements, while 13 were deemed not to have sleep apnea.
A copy of the ruling obtained by NJ.com found the arbitration board ruled Gallagher's return to work "is on a one-time, last chance basis." He must continue sleep apnea treatment and will operate trains only in rail yards. It is up to NJ Transit whether he'll control passenger trains.
Gallagher told investigators he had no memory of the crash and only remembered waking up on the floor of the engineer's cab after his train slammed into a bumping post at 21 mph, more than double the 10 mph speed limit.
The crash also brought attention to what's known as positive train control and whether its installation could have prevented the crash. At the time, NJ Transit was lagging far behind meeting a federal deadline for installation and was only at 12% completion when Chris Christie's second term as governor ended in January 2018.
Phil Murphy named Kevin Corbett as NJ Transit's president and CEO who accelerated PTC installation and met a key deadline in December 2018, which allowed the railroad to apply for an alternative schedule to have PTC fully operational by the end of 2020.
NJ Transit said this week that it was opposed to Gallagher's reinstatement but would comply with the arbitrator and will restrict his work 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," the agency said.
Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, 34, of Hoboken, was struck by the train during the crash as she walked on the platform.