The Amtrak engineer at the controls during the 2015 derailment in Philadelphia that left eight passengers dead and hundreds injured was criminally charged Friday with multiple counts including causing or risking a catastrophe.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced charges against engineer Brandon Bostian this week exactly two years to the day after Amtrak 188 derailed in Philly en route to New York City from Washington, D.C., killing eight people onboard and injuring over 200 others.
Mr. Bostian, 33, faces one count of involuntary manslaughter for each fatality as well as causing or risking a catastrophe, a second-degree felony that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years behind bars, prosecutors said Friday.
“I commend our outstanding team in the Office of the Attorney General who worked diligently and thoughtfully around the clock to enable us to be in this position to pursue justice on behalf of the victims of this deadly crash,” Mr. Shapiro said in a statement.
Federal investigators have determined the May 2015 derailment occurred after its engineer became distracted, lost situational awareness and accelerated the train to 106 mph on a curve that has a 50 mph speed limit.
Amtrak took responsibility for the crash afterwards and agreed to pay $265 million to settle claims brought on behalf of victims and their families.
New calls for legal action emerged this week, however, after Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on Tuesday said his office wouldn’t bring charges against the engineer due to an absence of evidence indicating criminal intent or responsibility, triggering lawyers for 32 derailment victims to evoke an unusual state law and file a private complaint against Mr. Bostian at Philadelphia Municipal Court on Wednesday.
Philadelphia Municipal Court President Judge Marsha Neifield ultimately heeded the request and directed the city’s district attorney afterwards to reverse his decision and bring charges against the engineer, but Mr. Williams argued his earlier decision precluded him from ruling otherwise and referred the matter to the state attorney general who ultimately brought charges Friday hours before the statute of limitations was set to expire.
Prosecutors have been in talks with Mr. Bostian’s attorney to have him surrender for arraignment, the Associated Press reported Friday. Mr. Bostian’s attorney could not be reached for comment, AP reported.