BALTIMORE (WJZ/AP) — Just days after the Philadelphia district attorney’s office said the Amtrak engineer involved in a derailment that killed eight people and injured about 200 others wouldn’t face criminal charges, a judge has ordered the office to bring charges.
“President Judge Neifield has ordered the filing of two private criminal complaints as a result of the Amtrak train 188 derailment,” a statement from the district attorney’s office says.
Those charges are involuntary manslaughter and recklessly endangering another person, according to court documents.
“In view of our earlier decision not to file charges, we have referred this prosecution to the Pennsylvania Attorney General. We take this action to avoid the potential for any apparent conflict of interest, consistent with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Attorney’s Act.”
Prosecutors had said they can’t prove engineer Brandon Bostian acted with “conscious disregard” when he accelerated the train to 106 mph on a 50 mph curve in Philadelphia.
Federal investigators concluded that Bostian lost track of his location, or “situational awareness,” before the May 12, 2015, crash after learning that a nearby commuter train had been struck with a rock. They found no evidence he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or distracted by a cellphone.
“We cannot conclude that the evidence rises to the high level necessary to charge the engineer or anyone else with a criminal offense,” the office said in an unsigned statement earlier this week.
Lawyers Thomas R. Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi, who represent more than 30 victims and their families, described their clients as bitterly disappointed when the announcement was made earlier in the week that no charges would be filed, and said many remain in constant pain two years later.
“There is a longing for accountability when you are disabled and in excruciating pain every day,” Mongeluzzi said. “The person who was the primary and sole cause of this escaped punishment and you paid the price.”
Kline believes that Bostian, now 34 and still on unpaid administrative leave with Amtrak, should at least face reckless endangerment charges, if not the more serious charges that require a finding of intent.
“If he is allowed to escape responsibility, then it is an invitation for every culpable person who operates a vehicle — whether it be a train or a car or a bus or a boat — to say, ‘I forgot where I was,'” Kline said.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and agreed to pay $265 million to settle related claims.
Bostian has a personal injury suit pending against Amtrak, saying he was left disoriented or unconscious when something struck his train before it derailed. However, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that nothing struck the locomotive.
Friends describe Bostian as a conscientious train enthusiast who had worked his way up to his dream job. Bostian declined to comment to The Philadelphia Inquirer last week. His lawyer has rarely commented and did not return a message Tuesday left by The Associated Press.
This story will be updated as more details become available.
(TM and Copyright 2017 CBS and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)