Reports: Engineer of ill-fated train lives in Columbia County

Posted at: 12/02/2013 5:16 PM
Updated at: 12/02/2013 10:11 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

The scene of the train derailment on Sunday.
The scene of the train derailment on Sunday.
Photo: AP

GERMANTOWN – The engineer of the Metro-North commuter train that derailed Sunday, killing four people and injuring more than 60 others, is reportedly a resident of Columbia County.

William Rockefeller Jr., 45, lives in Germantown, multiple news organizations reported Monday. Journalists from several New York City newspapers were staking out the house on Woods Rd.

No one answered when a NewsChannel 13 reporter knocked on the door. Several neighbors declined to comment. One neighbor said he had met Rockefeller only a few times over the years.

"He’s a nice guy," the neighbor said.

Rockefeller's train was traveling 82 mph in a 70 mph zone, approaching a 30 mph zone, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced late Monday. The train derailed on a curve.

Rockefeller, who was injured in the accident, reportedly told investigators his brakes failed. NTSB member Earl Weener said he was unaware of any problems with the brakes.

Rockefeller’s uncle, Jan Timothy Rockefeller, defended his nephew in an interview with the New York Daily News.

"If he said the brakes failed, the brakes failed," the uncle was quoted as saying. "He doesn’t lie… Everything he did, he did in a safe manner. Everything with him was safety."

Rockefeller’s father, William Rockefeller Sr., was quoted by the New York Post as saying, "He’s one of the better engineers, the most dependable. And he really does like trains."

The Post also interviewed a neighbor, Tracy Pool, who told the paper that Rockefeller Jr. is an avid motorcyclist who "likes to live on the edge."

"I wouldn’t say he’s such a speed demon," Pool was quoted as saying. "But he always stayed within the speed limit with his trains."

The preliminary findings of the NTSB indicate Rockefeller was exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph as he approached the curve. Whether that caused the crash remained under investigation.