PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — For a second time, criminal charges have been dropped against an Amtrak engineer at the helm of a deadly train crash in 2015. Brandon Bostian had been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the eight deaths and more than 200 counts of reckless endangerment over the injuries.
The decision followed defense arguments that any mistakes made by Bostian do not amount to crimes. Two judges and the city’s district attorney have now concluded that no criminal charges should be filed against Bostian in the 2015 derailment.
An appeal hearing has been set for Aug. 16. Bostian’s trial was supposed to begin Sept. 23.
In February 2018, Common Pleas Court Judge Kathryn Lewis reversed a municipal court’s decision, reinstating 246 counts of reckless endangerment, eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of risking a catastrophe. In September 2017, Judge Thomas Gheret had dismissed all counts against Bostian, for lack of evidence.
Eight people were killed and about 200 injured in 2015 when the New York-bound train derailed on a curve as it traveled at twice the speed limit.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded that Bostian lost his bearings while distracted by radio chatter about a nearby train that was struck by a rock. They found no evidence he was impaired or using a cellphone.
“We don’t lock up doctors when they commit malpractice and they make a mistake,” defense lawyer Brian McMonagle told The Associated Press. “She (the judge) did the right thing.”
Bostian will remain free on unsecured bond for 30 days to give prosecutors time to file an appeal, McMonagle said.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash, having agreed to pay $265 million to settle civil claims filed by victims and their families.
“It’s a very big disappointment to the families who have been waiting for some measure of public accountability and justice,” attorney Thomas R. Kline, who represents two of the families, said of the latest ruling. “We are hopeful that that day will come after appellate review and hopeful for a reversal of today’s decision.”
Since the accident, the railroad has installed positive-train control technology that can automatically slow or stop a speeding train on its track from Boston to Washington.
The state Attorney General’s Office had filed charges after the Philadelphia District Attorney declined the case.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)