Thursday 22 February 2018

Train driver charged in connection with derailment that killed eight

File photo of Brandon Bostian
File photo of Brandon Bostian

A speeding Amtrak train driver has been charged with causing a catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in a 2015 derailment.

The incident, which led to the loss of eight lives, came after he allegedly accelerated to 106mph on a 50mph curve.

Prosecutors said they were in talks with Brandon Bostian's lawyer to have him surrender on the charges.

Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro expanded on charges a judge in the US state approved a day earlier after the family of a woman killed in the crash sought a private criminal complaint.

The judge ordered city prosecutors to charge Bostian with two misdemeanours over Rachel Jacobs' death in the May 12 2015 derailment.

Mr Shapiro added the felony charge of risking or causing a catastrophe along with seven additional counts of involuntary manslaughter.

"This would not have happened had a courageous family, the Jacobs family, not stood up against the decision of a local prosecutor not to press charges," said lawyer Thomas R. Kline, who had sought the private complaint on the family's behalf.

"That was clearly wrong, as evidenced by the attorney general not only reversing course but adding charges."

Mr Kline said the attorney general on Friday "correctly and appropriately charged Brandon Bostian for his reckless disregard of the passengers in whose safety he was entrusted".

Philadelphia prosecutors had earlier declined to charge Bostian, citing insufficient evidence that he acted with intent or conscious disregard for the passengers' safety.

The crash killed eight people and injured about 200 others.

Ms Jacobs, a technology executive, was a wife and mother.

Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and agreed to pay 265 million US dollars to settle claims filed by victims and their families.

Mr Kline and attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who helped negotiate the settlement, announced the judge's order late on Thursday.

Bostian has a personal-injury lawsuit pending against Amtrak.

He said he was left disoriented or unconscious when something struck his train before it derailed.

He had become aware, through radio traffic, that a nearby commuter train had been struck by a rock.

However, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded nothing struck his locomotive.

Private criminal complaints are occasionally used in low-level crimes not witnessed by police or, sometimes, when charges are not filed for political reasons, experts said.

"The private complaint mechanism exists for cases where the police can't make an arrest and, arguably, for cases where they won't but they should," said Jules Epstein, a Temple University law professor.


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