'Bull' Episode "Off the Rails" Sounds Familiar for a Very Good Reason

Anna Quintana - Author

Apr. 12 2021, Updated 12:21 p.m. ET

The April 6 episode of Bull, the CBS drama starring Michael Weatherly as the brash and charming Dr. Jason Bull, follows the case of a train engineer who has no memory of the fatal crash he allegedly caused. 

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According to the synopsis, the engineer suffered a brain injury in the collision, and Bull is determined to place the blame on the corporate employer — not human error. 

Sound familiar? It should. 

bull off the rails episode
Source: CBS
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"Off the Rails" is seemingly based on the true story of the 2016 New Jersey Transit train crash.

In October 2016, a New Jersey Transit train crashed into Hoboken Terminal, killing one person and injuring over 100 others during their morning commute. 

Following the accident, it was revealed that the train's engineer, Thomas Gallagher, had no memory of the crash. 

According to The New York Times, the vice chairwoman of the safety board, Bella Dinh-Zarr, told reporters that Gallagher had no recollection of the collision, and "the first thing he remembered was waking up on the floor of the cab afterward."

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nj transit crash

Gallagher was also adamant that he was not on his cellphone, which was turned off and in his backpack, and that the train was traveling at 10 mph at the time of the crash. The train was discovered to have accelerated to 21 mph, more than twice the speed allowed, causing it to jump onto the platform.  

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Thomas Gallagher suffered from severe sleep apnea.

Gallagher was fired shortly after the crash, but he returned to work in 2019 after appearing in a national railroad arbitration court. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that NJ Transit failed to diagnose and treat Gallagher's severe obstructive sleep apnea. 

The board also found that a speed-control system could have prevented the crash if there had been one in place. 

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Despite his reinstatement, NJ Transit reassured passengers Gallagher is restricted to non-passenger trains. "In addition, the decision lays out rigorous testing and compliance that Mr. Gallagher must adhere to including training and re-certification for operating a locomotive as well as strict medical oversight," an email from spokeswoman Nancy Snyder read. 

Now, this wouldn't be the first time the CBS series drew from real-life inspiration. 

Dr. Jason Bull is said to be based on Dr. Phil McGraw.

While not exactly mirroring Dr. Phil's career, the TV medical expert is an executive producer on the show and has a history as a legal consultant. 

"What a revelation this idea of trial science is, a field that Dr. Phil pioneered," executive producer Mark Goffman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "What’s been exciting about this show is peeling the veil back and saying, ‘It’s not just facts that move a case; it’s the human dynamic.'"

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bull true story cbs
Source: CBS

In another interview, Michael Weatherly added, "Phil is a guy who gets human behavior." 

So, it's safe to say there is a little bit of truth in every Bull episode. Watch Bull Mondays at 10 p.m. EST on CBS. 

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