Brandon Bostian, the train engineer involved in an Amtrak derailment that killed eight people, has been charged with felony and misdemeanor crimes.
In May 2015, Bostian, who is gay, was speeding on a dangerous curve in North Philadelphia. As a result, the Amtrak train jumped the tracks and derailed.
The train originated in Washington, D.C., and was heading to New York City when the tragedy occurred.
On May 12, the state Attorney General’s Office charged Bostian with eight counts of involuntary manslaughter, one count of causing or risking a catastrophe and “numerous” counts of reckless endangerment, according to a news release.
Prior to the charges, victims’ attorneys filed two private criminal complaints against Bostian, which the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue, citing insufficient evidence.
After a Philadelphia judge ordered the D.A.’s Office to pursue the complaints, the D.A.’s Office referred the matter to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The state Attorney General’s Office subsequently increased the number of charges against Bostian, and added a felony charge of causing or risking a catastrophe.
If convicted of all charges, Bostian, 34, faces life in prison. He continues to be on unpaid administrative leave from his engineer position at Amtrak.
“This man needed to be brought to justice,” said victims’ attorney Thomas R. Kline in a televised interview. “The District Attorney’s Office didn’t even want to issue a speeding ticket to Brandon Bostian. And that was so fundamentally wrong. He destroyed the lives of so many people.”
But federal investigators say Bostian lost his bearings shortly before the derailment due to radio reports of a rock thrown at a nearby commuter train. Investigators say Bostian didn’t have drugs in his system nor was he talking on his cell phone at the time.
In a civil suit pending against Amtrak, Bostian raised the possibility that “projectiles” were thrown directly at the train he was operating shortly before it derailed.
Bostian couldn’t be reached for comment.
The criminal complaint filed by the state Attorney General’s Office against Bostian states: “On May 12, 2015, Brandon Bostian, the engineer of Amtrak Train No. 188, was traveling a route he navigated many times. When approaching a curve at the Frankford Junction, instead of decelerating the speed, Mr. Bostian accelerated the speed to more than twice the legal limit. Mr. Bostian, as the operator of the train, was not able to navigate the curve at such a high rate of speed. This caused the train to derail. This derailment caused the deaths of eight passengers.”
An accompanying affidavit of probable cause states that “Bostian was an experienced engineer who was aware of the route and the fact that there were speed limits throughout the route.”
About 200 Amtrak passengers were injured due to the derailment, in addition to the eight fatalities.
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.
In a May 9 news release, the Philadelphia D.A.’s Office said it thoroughly investigated the derailment in conjunction with Philadelphia police, Amtrak officials and train-operation experts.
“The evidence indicates that the derailment was caused by the engineer operating the train far in excess of the speed limit,” the office said in the release. “However, we cannot conclude that the evidence rises to the high level necessary to charge the engineer or anyone else with a criminal offense.”