As the train entered the curve, sources said, Rockefeller was jolted from his sleep and hit the brake, but not in time. The cars derailed, and several careened onto their sides before grinding to a halt on the edge of the Harlem River. Four people were killed, three of whom were thrown out of the cars, and more than 60 others were injured.
Rockefeller, 46, has been an engineer for roughly 11 years and a Metro-North employee for 20 years, and has an unblemished record.
Sources said he took a drug and alcohol test, and they do not believe either was a factor in the crash.
They declined to provide details of Rockefeller’s statements, which were given within minutes of the disaster, when paramedics and investigators arrived at the scene to offer assistance and try to learn what happened.
Prosecutors subpoenaed Rockefeller’s cellphone, but sources said they do not believe he was using it at the time of the tragedy.
Instead, sources said he virtually admitted that he fell asleep as the train roared through a straight, 70 mph zone, heading toward one of the sharpest curves on the 75-mile trip that started at 5:54 a.m. in Poughkeepsie, bound for New York City.