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New details emerge about deadly 2013 Metro-North train derailment

FiOS1 News and The Journal News investigate as anniversary of accident in the Bronx approaches

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BRONX, N.Y. — There are new revelations surrounding the deadly Metro-North derailment in 2013 in Spuyten Duyvil.

There are new details surrounding former Metro-North engineer William Rockefeller and what he allegedly did the night before the derailment. The Bronx District Attorney's Office confirmed it looked into allegations of a conversation Rockefeller had with the assistant conductor of the train before it took off.

"This is sort of the first time that we have some solid evidence that investigators, Bronx prosecutors, MTA police have both sort of looked into this matter," said Journal News reporter Tom Zambito. His investigation has spanned for months. And these new revelations are coming just as the 4-year anniversary of the derailment approaches.

"It might go to his criminality, whether or not he was criminally responsible for the accident. So that's why his knowledge or whether he said that or not becomes crucial in that it could show whether that he was aware what his condition was, maybe he shouldn’t gotten on that train," Zambito said.

The conversation allegedly happened right before Hudson Line train 8808 started its journey from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Station. Rockefeller allegedly told the assistant conductor, “It's your job is to keep me awake."

The alleged statement was made after investigators looked into claims Rockefeller was up late the night before the early morning crash.

At the center of those claims is assistant conductor Maria Herbert. She suffered head injuries, broken ribs, and post-traumatic stress disorder after the crash. According to the investigation, Herbert told her husband, who then told an MTA claims agent Rockefeller was "up all night." Maria Herbert denied the conversations to investigators thereafter. The MTA awarded Herbert an $835,000 settlement.

The Bronx District Attorney's Office was notified about those alleged damming allegations by the assistant conductor of the train five months after the deadly derailment.

In a statement, the Bronx D.A.'s office says:

"This information was investigated but was not substantiated; the employee denied that she ever heard Rockefeller say that and denied that she ever told anyone that she heard him say that. The investigation was closed at the end of 2014."

"This year, for some reason, in particular, it’s hitting really hard," said Nancy Montgomery. Her husband Jim Lovell was on that train heading into work on that fateful Sunday. Jim was one of the four passengers who died.

"Now that these stories are coming out, I’m angry. I’m really having a hard time, harder than ever before. And I want the truth, and I feel like my family and I and every other victim deserve the truth," Montgomery says.

The mounting questions surrounding those hours before the deadly 2013 derailment come as previous investigations by the Journal News and federal agencies revealed Metro-North failed to install signal controls on four critical curves along the rail line. One of those curves is the sharp one where the derailment occurred at Spuyten Duyvil.

Meanwhile, Rockefeller filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the MTA. In the lawsuit, he says the transit agency is to blame for not installing a backup safety system on the rails that would have put the brakes on his speeding train when he fell asleep.

"He's always been very apologetic about what happened. He feels terrible. His life has been ruined, virtually, because of this accident. It was a tragedy all around," Zambito says.

Rockefeller's lawyer, Ira Mauer, declined to comment on the statements. Metro-North did as well.

Meanwhile, the families of those who lost loved ones or who were injured are still searching for the truth.

The question still remains as to what happened hours before the crash and will the answer bring closure and healing to those affected by the terrible tragedy.

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