Engineer in deadly Philadelphia Amtrak crash could still be charged

Carla Harmon
May 13, 2017

In a stunning turn for a case that seemed all but concluded earlier this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro filed criminal charges Friday night against the engineer of the Amtrak train that derailed in Philadelphia in May 2015, resulting in the deaths of eight people.

Judge Marsha Neifield of Philadelphia Municipal Court issued an order saying Brandon Bostian could be charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.

The Amtrak train bound for New York City crashed in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring hundreds.

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. Eight passengers died and more than 200 were injured in that preventable catastrophe.

Pennsylvania's attorney general is doing what the Philadelphia district attorney's office said it couldn't do. A lawyer for Bostian did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. A data recorder on board the train revealed that it was traveling at a speed of 106 miles per hour far in violation of the speed zone of 50 miles per hour for that section of track.

On Thursday afternoon, attorneys Richard A. Sprague, Thomas R. Kline and Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represent many victims of this incident, held a news conference at their Center City office, where they applauded Judge Neifield's decision.

The Amtrak complaint involves only the death of NY executive Rachel Jacobs, 39, who left behind a husband and 2-year-old son.

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

Federal investigators concluded Bostian lost track of his location before the 2015 crash after learning a nearby commuter train had been struck with a rock.

Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and agreed to pay $265 million to settle claims filed by victims and their families. The company has since installed positive train control systems in its trains, which automatically slow a speeding train.

"We've received the referral from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and are carefully reviewing this important matter", Joe Grace, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said on Friday.

The NTSB investigation found that Bostian was distracted by radio conversations about other trains being hit with projectiles.

"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 District Attorney's Office said Tuesday in an unsigned statement.

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