One of the victims of the 2016 train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, will receive $475,000 after she reached a settlement with the transit companies involved. The victim, Megan D. McGuinness, suffered permanent nerve damage to her face and underwent multiple surgeries in an attempt to repair her injuries. McGuinness is the first victim of the Hoboken train crash to settle her lawsuit with both NJ Transit and Metro-North, although more lawsuits are pending. The train crash killed one person and injured more than 100, a reminder of the devastation that can occur even on a seemingly routine train commute.
Victim was Commuting to Work when New Jersey Transit Train Crashed at Hoboken Terminal
McGuinness was commuting to work at Pace University from Pearl River, New York, when the train she was on crashed in Hoboken Terminal on September 29, 2016. Seated toward the back of the second car, McGuinness was thrown around in the crash, and metal debris slashed her face. That debris left McGuinness with an eight-centimeter cut through her skin and her facial muscle.
She received treatment at Hoboken University Medical Center, where she underwent immediate surgery for the damage to her face. During the surgery, she received 100 stitches but her facial nerves were too severely damaged.
The lack of nerve control left her with no feeling and an issue with drooling. McGuinness also has permanent scars on her face. At the time of the train crash, she worked as a marketing manager at Pace University and was also a student of the university’s early childhood education program.
McGuinness agreed to the Hoboken train crash settlement before the trial was scheduled. Although the lawsuit was filed against both NJ Transit and Metro-North, Metro-North is expected to pay the $475,000 settlement because McGuinness boarded the train at a Metro-North station.
Officials Blamed New Jersey Train Crash on Sleep Apnea
The train crash occurred as the New Jersey Transit train carrying McGuinness arrived at the Hoboken station. The train sped up to 21 miles per hour, more than double the 10 mile-per-hour speed limit through the station. The crash killed one woman and injured more than 100 others.
Following an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said the train’s engineer, Thomas Gallagher, suffered undiagnosed sleep apnea, which led to the crash. According to the NTSB, NJ Transit did not properly screen and treat train engineers for sleep apnea.
“The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the Hoboken, New Jersey, the accident was the failure of New Jersey Transit train 1614’s engineer to stop the train after entering Hoboken Terminal due to the engineer’s fatigue resulting from his undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea,” the NTSB wrote. “Contributing to the accident was New Jersey Transit’s failure to follow its internal obstructive sleep apnea screening guidance and refer at-risk safety-sensitive personnel for definitive obstructive sleep apnea testing and treatment.”
The NTSB also blamed the crash on a lack of Positive Train Control, which could have stopped the speeding train before it crashed into the terminal.
Sleep apnea is linked to an increase in daytime drowsiness and overall fatigue.
Hoboken Terminal the Site of Other Train Safety Violations
According to reports, federal officials uncovered numerous violations at the Hoboken Terminal in the months before the fatal train crash. Those violations included:
- Use of personal cell phones by on-duty workers
- Failure to perform brake tests on trains
- Failure to blow horns at grade crossings
- Failure to ensure trains were equipped with emergency equipment
More Lawsuits Filed Following Hoboken Train Crash
The family of Fabiola Bittar de Kroon, the only fatality in the crash, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against NJ Transit. She was walking through the Hoboken Terminal when the train crashed and died at the scene. Sheldon Kest filed a lawsuit after he lost part of his middle finger in the train crash. Meanwhile, at least four other passengers have also indicated they intend to sue.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the U.S. House approved legislation designed to improve how railroad safety data is collected. The legislation would require the Federal Railroad Administration to follow the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General’s recommendations. That improved data collection would make it easier for officials to discover safety issues.
“Our roads and rails in New Jersey are literally crumbling—and our rail safety is way behind where it should be,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer. “We can’t play partisan games with the safety of our children and family.”