Judge orders prosecutors to charge Amtrak engineer in crash

Lauren Perry
May 13, 2017

"My office filed criminal charges against Brandon Bostian, the engineer of the Amtrak 188 train involved in the deadly crash in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015", Shapiro said on Friday.

Judge Marsha Neifield issued the order against Brandon Bostian on Thursday, relying on a Pennsylvania law that lets courts accept private criminal complaints if district attorneys decline to prosecute.

Though the National Transportation Safety Board had previously ruled that the derailment was caused by Bostian, of NY, when he lost "situational awareness" due to being distracted by the radio, the DA's office found on Tuesday that there was not enough "evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the engineer "consciously" disregarded the risk" of an imminent crash.

The case was referred to the office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who can either decide to comply with the order and charge Bostian or appeal it to the state Superior Court.

The criminal case is sure to bring new scrutiny to the National Transportation Safety Board finding that Bostian had lost "situational awareness" on the curve in North Philadelphia.

Prosecutors say they have been in talks with Bostian's attorney to have him surrender and be arraigned on the charges.

When the train approached a curve at the Frankford Junction the speed limit dropped to 50 miles per hour - but instead of decelerating, "Bostian accelerated the train's movement to a speed of 106 miles per hour".

Thomas Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi, attorneys for 32 other crash victims, joined Sprague in his request for criminal charges.

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NTSB investigators say they found no evidence the Amtrak engineer was using alcohol, drugs or a cell phone.

In Pennsylvania, a private complaint is a criminal action initiated by a private citizen rather than a police officer.

"We can not conclude that the evidence rises to the high level necessary to charge the engineer or anyone else with a criminal offense", the office said in an unsigned statement earlier this week.

Bostian has a personal injury suit pending against Amtrak, saying he was left disoriented or unconscious when something struck his train before it derailed.

Other lawyers have called last year's NTSB report on the crash a "whitewash" and a "quantum leap". He had become aware, through radio traffic, that a nearby commuter train had been struck by a rock.

Philadelphia prosecutors had earlier declined to charge Bostian, citing insufficient evidence.

Amtrak 188 was carrying 243 people from Washington to NY on May 12 when it hurtled off the track in Philadelphia.

As NPR's Merrit Kennedy reported in October, a federal judge approved a $265 million settlement between Amtrak and people affected by the crash. Kline represents the family of the NY victim, Rachel Jacobs, a 39-year-old technology executive, wife and mother.

Other reports by VgToday

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