A former employee of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) pleaded guilty to falsely claiming he had inspected a part of a railway that an investigation determined was broken and contributed to a collision in Speonk, New York in 2019.
Stuart Conklin was charged in a criminal complaint in March 2021 with making a false entry in a LIRR inspection report required by federal rail road safety law. He was subsequently indicted in April 2022, according to Breon Peace, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Conklin’s guilty plea occurred during a proceeding before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert. When sentenced, he faces up to two years in prison, prosecutors said.
“As dramatically evidenced by the derailment, the rail bond Conklin falsely claimed to have inspected was a critical piece of rail road equipment, essential to ensuring the safety of passengers,” said Peace, noting that “thankfully no one was seriously hurt in this accident.”
As set forth in the complaint and indictment, as a LIRR signalman, Conklin’s responsibilities included performing regular inspections of rail bonds. Rail bonds are electronic jumpers around joints in the rails of a railroad track to ensure continuity of conductivity for signal currents.
On April 26, 2019, Conklin falsely indicated in an inspection report that he had inspected a particular rail bond in Speonk, and that the bond had passed inspection. However, video footage from a LIRR camera showed that Conklin in fact did not inspect the bond during his shift that day.
Approximately one month later, on May 23, 2019, a westbound LIRR train collided with the rear of an eastbound train in Speonk. The rear of the westbound train did not register in the LIRR signal system as occupying a section of side track, causing the eastbound train to be cleared to pass on the main track when there was not enough space to do so.
A subsequent LIRR investigation determined that the rail bond that Conklin had falsely indicated he had inspected on April 26, 2019, was broken and that the broken rail bond was the cause of the signal malfunction and the derailment.
“Falsifying inspection reports puts the safety of the public and MTA employees and property at risk.” said Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General Daniel G. Cort. “Individuals, like Conklin, who shirk their responsibilities and endanger others, should be held accountable.”
Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York
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