Judge orders prosecutors to charge Amtrak engineer in deadly 2015 derailment

Lucy Hill
May 13, 2017

The Amtrak engineer behind the Philadelphia train derailment in 2015 that killed eight people was charged with multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors announced Friday.

Brandon Bostian faces eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and other crimes including causing a catastrophe and reckless endangerment.

Philadelphia prosecutors released a statement Thursday indicating that they will refer Bostian's prosecution to the state's attorney general to avoid a conflict of interest.

The attorney's general office did not say when Bostian will be arraigned.

The state's top prosecutor on Friday charged a speeding Amtrak engineer with causing a catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in a 2015 derailment that came after he accelerated to 106 miles per hour on a 50 miles per hour curve.

Local prosecutors had cleared Bostian of criminal wrongdoing earlier in the week.

Attorneys for one of the dead victims of the crash, Rachel Jacobs, then tried to seek a private criminal complaint, prompting the district attorney's office to send the case to the state attorney general for review.

Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifeld ordered Thursday for the engineer to be criminally charged. The decision not to prosecute "was a shock", said former prosecutor Richard Sprague.

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Amtrak 188 was carrying 243 people from Washington to NY on May 12 when it hurtled off the track in Philadelphia. While he's made few public statements, he was interviewed at least twice by the National Transportation Safety Board as a part of its investigation into the deadly crash.

Last year, the NTSB released its investigation into the crash and ruled Bostian was partially at fault, though he was not found to be sleepy, operating his cell phone or under the influence of any drugs or alcohol.

"The best we could come up with was that he was distracted from this radio conversation about the damaged train and forgot where he was", NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said at a May 2016 hearing.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court established the standard for proving criminal negligence in Commonwealth v. Huggins, a 2003 decision involving criminal involuntary manslaughter charges against a man who fell asleep at the wheel of his van, which was carrying 21 children and three adults, many not wearing seat belts. The crash was two years ago today. His client now lives near Boston, according to Neifield's order.

"The private complaint mechanism exists for cases where the police can't make an arrest and, arguably, for cases where they won't but they should", said Jules Epstein, a Temple University law professor.

Bostian, in a lawsuit against Amtrak, said he was left disoriented or unconscious when something struck his train before it derailed.

This portion of track was not equipped with positive train control or even a less technologically-advanced piece of equipment that could have prevented the train from traveling at such a speed.

Other reports by TheDailyFarc

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