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Is Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea the Cause of Recent Hoboken Train Accident?

New information about the cause of the fatal New Jersey train crash that occurred in September has now been brought to light. According to both the National Transportation Safety Review Board and the lawyer (for the train engineer): sleep apnea is to blame for the unfortunate September train crash.

This Hoboken accident took place during the morning rush hour and resulted in the death of one female standing on the platform and injured more than 100 individuals in its totality.

Thomas Gallagher, the engineer of the New Jersey train that crashed, was diagnosed post-accident with a condition known as sleep apnea. According to Jack Arseneault, the lawyer of Gallagher, this post-accident diagnosis was delayed. Arseneault asserts the delay was due to the different medication that Gallagher had received as a result of the crash.

Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when an individual’s breathing pauses or becomes shallow during their sleeping habits throughout the night thus resulting in daytime tiredness for the individual. This diagnosis does not mean that Gallagher fell asleep at the controls, but as one National Transportation Safety Review Board stated it was an interesting post-accident diagnosis and will use that information in combination with all other facts surrounding this accident during its investigation.

Thomas Gallagher, is a veteran of the the railroad with decades of experience. He was given his annual physical in July. At that time Gallagher was approved and cleared for work. The overall extent to which sleep apnea was tested during the annual physical is unclear at this time. Ultimately, Gallagher was found fit for duty following the July physical.

In 2013, on a separate tri-state railroad line, an engineer fell asleep while in control of a train resulting in the death of four individuals. It was only after that accident that it was found out that that engineer was undiagnosed with sleep apnea during his physical, similar to this situation. The National Transportation Safety Review Board, as a result, recommended to the Metropolitan Transit Authority institute a testing system that tests for sleep apnea for its employees.