Charges dismissed against train engineer in Amtrak derailment

Charges dismissed against train engineer in Amtrak derailment

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A Philadelphia judge this week dismissed all charges against Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian, who was involved in a train derailment in Port Richmond that killed eight passengers and injured about 200 others.

On Sept. 12, Municipal Court Judge Thomas F. Gehret dismissed all charges against Bostian, who is gay.

At the conclusion of a preliminary hearing, Gehret cited a lack of evidence that Bostian acted with "criminal negligence."  The judge indicated the derailment was an accident rather than a crime.

In May 2015, Bostian was speeding on a dangerous curve in Port Richmond, causing a seven-car Amtrak train to jump the tracks and derail.

The train originated in D.C. and was heading to New York City when the tragedy occurred.

In May 2017, the state Attorney General's Office charged Bostian with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of causing or risking a catastrophe and 238 counts of reckless endangerment. 

A prior review by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office didn't result in any criminal charges against Bostian. 

But victims' attorneys filed private criminal complaints against Bostian, and a local judge ordered a criminal case against Bostian to move forward.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro issued this statement: "The Amtrak crash was a tragedy and this case has a unique procedural history. We are carefully reviewing the judge's decision, notes of testimony and our prosecutorial responsibilities in this case going forward."

If convicted of all charges, Bostian, 34, faced a lifetime in prison. He continues to be on unpaid administrative leave from his engineer position at Amtrak.

In court papers, state prosecutors alleged that Bostian was traveling more than twice the legal speed limit when the derailment occurred, despite being aware there were speed limits throughout the route.

But in a 2016 report, federal investigators said Bostian apparently lost his bearings shortly before the derailment due to an incident with a nearby commuter train. Investigators noted that Bostian didn't have drugs in his system nor was he talking on his cellphone at the time.

In a civil suit pending against Amtrak, Bostian raises the possibility that "projectiles" were thrown directly at the train he was operating shortly before it derailed.

According to court records, Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and agreed to pay $265 million to settle civil suits filed by victims and their families. 

Robert J. Mongeluzzi and Thomas R. Kline, attorneys for victims of the Amtrak derailment, issued this statement: "Today's ruling was a very significant disappointment for the families who lost loved ones, as well as those whose lives were shattered by life-altering injuries sustained on Amtrak 188. The survivors and victims are stunned by this ruling that suggests that the locomotive engineer entrusted with their safety should not be held fully accountable. They look to the [state] Attorney General to continue to seek to achieve justice for them."

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