Engineer Acquitted in Fatal Amtrak Crash

Train derailed after hitting curve at 106mph
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2022 4:05 PM CST
Jury Acquits Engineer in Fatal Amtrak Crash
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a derailment in Philadelphia in May 2015.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

(Newser) – An Amtrak engineer was cleared Friday of charges related to a deadly, high-speed derailment that left eight people dead and hundreds injured in Philadelphia in 2015. The jury acquitted 38-year-old engineer Brandon Bostian of causing a catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment after a little more than an hour of deliberations. Eight people died, and more than 200 people were injured, when the train rounded a curve at more than twice the speed limit and derailed in north Philadelphia. Amtrak agreed to pay $265 million in civil settlements to victims and their families in 2016, the AP reports.

Bostian's lawyer described him as a lifelong train buff who had a perfect work record until he was distracted by people throwing rocks in the area just before the crash. Prosecutors said he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of his passengers, who were traveling from Washington to New York that Tuesday evening. The train had stopped at Philadelphia's 30th Street station about 10 minutes earlier and was heading north. Federal investigators concluded that Bostian lost "situational awareness" on the track, thinking he was past an S-curve and on a straightaway when he accelerated from about 65 mph to 106 mph.

In fact, he was in the middle of the S-curve. Investigators found no evidence he was impaired or using his cellphone at the time. Philadelphia's top prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges after the federal investigation. The state Attorney General’s Office later took the case to trial, after some victims' families pressed for charges. The jury had to decide whether Bostian sped up intentionally, knowing the risks—the threshold required for criminal negligence.

(Read more derailment stories.)

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