A New York City derailed train which killed four people and injured 63 others was travelling at a shocking speed of 82 miles per hour – nearly three times faster than the recommended limit - when it veered off the tracks along a curve, authorities said.
"Preliminary information shows that the train, bound for New York City, was travelling at approximately 82 miles per hour as it went into a 30 miles an hour curve," National Transportation Safety Board board member Earl Weener told reporters here.
Weener said the investigation into the crash is ongoing and it was yet soon to say whether the derailment was caused by human error or faulty equipment.
The throttle was engaged until six seconds before the locomotive came to a stop on its side, and the brakes were fully applied only five seconds before, Weener said.
That is "very late in the game."
Weener said the investigation would focus primarily on not only when the brakes were applied but also why the train was traveling at such a speed that it required an emergency maneuver.
He said it was unclear if the engineer of the train, who is a 20-year veteran, hit the brakes and they failed, or that he tried to slow down when it was too late.
"The question is: Was this human error or faulty equipment? And the answer is at this point in time we can't tell. We do know that two minutes before the curve the train was going at 60 miles per hour and had accelerated then up to 82 miles per hour prior to entering the curve," Weener said.
Investigators have recovered the black box of the train as well as data recorders and are also interviewing the train's engineer and conductor and three crew members.
The engineer of the train has been identified as William Rockefeller, who had been injured in the crash and will continue to be interviewed by authorities over the next few days.
Weener said drug and alcohol tests have been conducted but the results were not yet available.
Rockefeller's cellphone has also been recovered as part of the investigation, Weener added. The authorities are also examining surveillance video from a bridge near the site.
A Metropolitan Transportation Authority official said Rockefeller has told emergency medical workers that he "dumped the brakes" when he saw that the train was heading into the curve at a fast speed.
The curve where the train derailed is in a slow-speed area, where the speed limit is 30