Metro-North to require sleep apnea evaluation

N.J. Burkett reporting from Grand Central
April 22, 2014 4:55:55 PM PDT
A new Metro-North directive would require the 350 engineers who work for the railway to be evaluated in the coming months for sleep apnea.

Earlier this month, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed that the engineer, william rockefeller suffered from a severe form of sleep apnea in a derailment late last year. The incident left four people dead and dozens injured.

Mike Doyle, general chairman of the Officials with the Association of Commuter Rail Employees union, told Eyewitness News in a statement that, "recognizing that an undiagnosed sleep disorder likely was a major contributing factor to the tragic accident ... our organization is working with Metro-North to establish a program to help identify engineers who may suffer from the same medical condition."

MTA chief spokesman Adam Lisberg said there are still a lot of questions about the screening and that it will be extended to all safety-sensitive personnel. "We haven't agreed on what to do in the program," he said. "We're working on plans for addressing sleep apnea for critical safety personnel, but have no final plans yet for what we'll do."

Dr. Steven Feinsilver, of Mount Sinai, is an expert on sleep disorders. He applauded the move, but warned that screening for sleep apnea is easier said than done.

Feinsilver said the best testing is an overnight sleep study which can be a "relatively complicated thing to do."

"It's a serious public health problem. It's a common disease," he said.