HOBOKEN — The family of the woman killed in last September's NJ Transit train crash is suing the agency, saying the crash could have been prevented.

The family blames NJ Transit for not having installed Positive Train Control, a technology that could have slowed the train. Regulators have extended deadlines to install the technology, which is already used by several other major transit services.

The Pascack Valley line train entered Hoboken Terminal on track 5 at least 10 mph higher than the posted speed limit and crashed into the platform, killing 34-year-old Fabiola Bittar de Kroon. Moments before the crash, de Kroon had dropped her daughter off at a daycare center.

The suit was filed on behalf of de Kroon's husband, Adrianus, who is a citizen of the Netherlands and lives in Brazil.

Engineer Thomas Gallagher is not named in the suit. The veteran engineer, who had worked for NJ Transit for 19 years, was later diagnosed as having sleep apnea, which could have caused him to doze off on the approach to the terminal.

The suit puts blame for the crash on NJ Transit, which it describes as a "badly broken agency."

Fabiola Bittar de Kroon is seen in a photo provided by ID Advisors
Fabiola Bittar de Kroon is seen in a photo provided by ID Advisors

“We now know that not only was this tragedy completely preventable, it was a horrific accident just waiting to happen on so many levels," attorney Tom Kline, a member of the legal team handling the case, said. "It is a classic case of a passenger rail operator living in a state of denial, and taking necessary, life-saving precautions only after a catastrophe. They must and will be held accountable."

The suit seeks unspecified damages.

Rail experts have said the crash could have been prevented with the automatic PTC braking technology, which will be required by the end of next year.

The nation's railroads were granted an extension by President Obama in December to  install PTC systems by the end of 2018.

“We are aggressively tackling the challenges posed as PTC is being designed, developed and deployed simultaneously," in order to meet the December deadline, NJ Transit said in a statement last year.

The crash was the first in a series of NJ Transit derailments and delays that promoted Amtrak, which owns and maintains the Northeast Corridor infrastructure, to begin an intense rehabilitation of the tracks at Penn Station.

Morris & Essex line customers will end their trip in Hoboken for the duration of the project, which begins July 10, and take bus, ferries or PATH trains into Manhattan.

NJ Transit spokesman Jim Smith told New Jersey 101.5 it does not comment on pending litigation.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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