Obstructive Sleep Apnea and the NY Train Derailment

In the early morning of December 1, 2013, train engineer William Rockefeller, Jr. derailed a train at high speed in New York. The train was approaching a sharp curve in the track at a speed of 82 mph in a 30 mph zone when it was thrown on its side; one of the seven cars missed the nearby Harlem River by only a few feet. The accident left four people dead and 70 wounded.

It was subsequently determined that Rockefeller suffered from obstructive sleep apnea, one of the most severe forms of sleep apnea. According to experts, as many as 22 million people in the United States could be suffering from this disorder.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that causes obstruction of the airway during sleep. Though the muscles of the throat relax during sleep, dilator muscles in the throat usually keep the airway open. However in a sleep apnea sufferer, these muscles are weakened or impaired in some way and are unable to keep the throat muscles from relaxing to the point of airway constriction. People suffering from this disorder will stop breathing until a lack of oxygen in the blood triggers the diaphragm to intake air; this causes a loud gasp or snort as the breath is drawn.

Sleep apnea sufferers usually do not realize they have the condition. Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include grumpiness and irritability, forgetfulness, persistent headaches, and extreme fatigue.

William Rockefeller, Jr. was unaware that he suffered from obstructive sleep apnea; he had never been tested for the condition prior to the crash. Rockefeller’s lawyer argued that his condition had been “exacerbated by the change in shifts two weeks [before the accident].” The 46-year-old engineer was diagnosed following the crash and was suspended without pay while awaiting trial.

Someone whose sleep is disrupted five times in an hour will experience tiredness the next day. Thirty arousals an hour is considered severe. Tests showed that Rockefeller had as many as 66 disruptions every hour, or 528 sleep disruptions during an eight-hour period – enough to seriously impair his ability to exercise good judgment while operating moving machinery or vehicles.

Rockefeller’s sleep apnea was treated after the accident with a device called a CPAP, a Continuous Positive Air Pressure machine; it provides gentle air pressure to help keep the airways open. After 30 days, he reported that he felt more energetic and overall less sleepy.


Woman Sentenced After Leaving Baby On Top Of Car

An Arizona woman is on probation after leaving her baby on top of her car and driving away.

A  21-year-old from Phoenix, pleaded guilty to child abuse charges and a misdemeanor DUI in early April. Part of her plea agreement was the avoidance of jail time, instead being given three months of a deferred sentence and 16 years of probation.

According to reports, the woman  had been smoking marijuana with friends before leaving the gathering and putting her five-week-old son on the roof of her car. The boy was in a carrier; the woman was digging in her purse for her keys. When she found them, she entered the vehicle, started the car and drove away, forgetting that she placed her baby on top of the vehicle.

The baby was eventually found in the middle of the road. Miraculously, he was unhurt. However, police say that it all could have ended very differently.

“The car seat was damaged,” confided one officer. “There were scrapes on the car seat, obviously from a fall.”

It is unknown how long the baby coasted on top of the car until high speeds forced him to tumble off and onto the street. The general assumption is at least several miles; the friend’s home was in a residential neighborhood and the baby was found on a highway.

The woman is said to have driven 12 miles before she realized her error. She was arrested when she returned to the scene.


Police Investigate Car & Bus Crash in Phoenix

A 26-year-old pregnant woman died Monday, April 15 in Phoenix, Arizona from injuries sustained when the car she was riding in went through a red light and crashed into a tour bus, injuring two children in the back seat, but leaving the bus passengers unharmed.

The woman was initially placed on life support on Sunday, April 14, said Phoenix Police. The woman, who was pregnant at the time of the crash, had an emergency Caesarian section to save her 28-week-old fetus. The baby was in stable condition at a local hospital.

The accident was caused by a man traveling southbound who failed to stop for a red light at the intersection of the Interstate 17 access road and McDowell Road, crashing into a tour bus carrying 40 passengers westbound on McDowell Road in the middle lane. The vehicle eventually came to a stop on the island median.

A witness, Scott Bradley, told a  Phoenix television station that the car “was going very fast, and yeah, you heard it; it was definitely a good clip.”

He described the situation after he and others rushed to help at the accident site.

“The woman inside had some pretty traumatic injuries, so we did what we could with some pressure bandages and then the police and fire trucks arrived and they took her away,” he said.

The witness said there were two children, ages 3 and 1, in the back seat of the vehicle. The 3-year-old was in a booster seat, but the 1-year-old was not restrained; both sustained minor injuries and were taken to the hospital as a precaution.

The passengers on the charter bus, which routinely carries passengers from Nogales to Los Angeles, sustained no apparent injury.


West Phoenix Fire Claims Teen Life

Following a fire in a west Phoenix apartment on a Sunday morning, a 14-year-old girl was tragically killed. Her mother and three siblings are alive, but in critical condition.

The tragedy occurred very early on the morning of March 23, 2014. Firefighters responded to reports of a fire in a second floor home of an apartment building, according to Captain Jonathan Jacobs. The firefighters fought through heavy smoke and were able to extinguish the fire quickly, subsequently finding the victims. A Phoenix police officer who was also at the scene, James Holmes, stated that a firefighter kicked open the door to a bedroom and found the family.

Holmes told the Associated Press that the firefighter discovered the five victims, who were a 33-year-old mother and her four children. All were in the bedroom and unconscious. He further reported that the mother and a 10-year-old child were in critical condition at the hospital. Two more children, three years old and three months old, are said to be in extremely critical, but stable condition.

Officer Holmes stated that there is a belief that the fire might have been intentionally set because of domestic violence. He included that a person of interest has been found.

Because of the blaze, around 30 additional residents of the apartment building have been evacuated. There were electrical damage and additional issues because of the fire that were believed to be safety hazards to the residents.

Jennifer Sheppard is one of the residents in question. She and her four children live in a two-bedroom apartment downstairs from the victims on the first floor. She stated that she was very grateful that a neighbor knocked on her door and awoke her 14-year-old son, who alerted her. Sheppard claimed she had not heard or felt anything. She and her children quickly escaped the building barefoot after seeing how severe of a fire was ablaze.

Sheppard stated that the heat of the fire just hit her face in a very sudden manner. Once they were outside, she and her kids watched as firefighters carried the children from the upstairs apartment over their shoulders. They then proceeded to perform CPR to the kids on the ground.

Sheppard stated that she did not know the family well, and she never noticed any signs of domestic violence between the mother and her boyfriend, who also lived in the home. She added that she normally noticed the kids playing on the balcony when they were outside.

Hayla Miller, a 12-year-old girl who lives in another part of the building, was close friends with the 14-year-old girl who died. She stated that she and her friend always made one another laugh, she was fun to be around, and nice to everyone.


Skydiving Accident Claims Life in Arizona

A German woman was killed during a skydiving accident while jumping at Skydive Arizona. The skydiving center identified parachute malfunction as the cause of the accident. The parachute was reportedly released too low to the ground, which prevented the reserve parachute from fully opening. The woman was declared dead at the scene of the accident.

The woman was part of a skydiving group that was attempting to break a world record for skydiving in a formation. A spokesperson remarked that the accident had nothing to do with the number of divers nor with the aircraft. The group consisted of 222 people from 28 different countries. They had planned to free-fall from approximately 18,000 feet, join together in a snowflake-like formation, separate, then join together again in another formation before deploying their parachutes. In total, the skydivers would have had approximately 70 seconds to complete their formations prior to opening their parachutes.

The group failed to break the record during the jump in which the woman died. Despite making attempts after the skydiver’s death, the group still did not reach their goal. They planned to attempt to break the record again a few days later with 221 skydivers.

Law enforcement found the skydiver’s body approximately one mile from the drop zone. Her body was collected and transported to the Federal Aviation Administration for inspection.

Since opening in the 1980s, Skydive Arizona has become one of the leading skydiving spots in the country. Arizona’s sunny climate, clear skies, and desert terrain make the location ideal for making jumps. Other skydiving deaths have taken place on the site in recent months. In November 2013, two divers from Germany and the United Kingdom died while attempting to set a different record. The accident occurred when the divers’ parachutes collapsed.

Although skydiving is inherently dangerous, the number of reported deaths each year is low compared to the number of jumps. Attempting formation jumps with large groups of people increases the risk of death or injury due to a greater likelihood of having a collision. A spokesperson from the United States Parachute Association stated that most skydiving deaths are caused by situations that involve diver error.