February 6, 2018 / 7:33 PM / 6 months ago

Amtrak engineer must face trial for 2015 derailment, judge rules

(Reuters) - A Philadelphia judge on Tuesday ruled that the engineer at the throttle of an Amtrak train during a deadly derailment in 2015 must face criminal charges, overturning another judge who had dismissed them, prosecutors said.

FILE PHOTO: Emergency workers look through the remains of a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Judge Kathryn Streeter Lewis reinstated charges, including involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, against the engineer, Brandon Bostian, after finding that the previous decision was wrong, prosecutors said. She did not give a reason for her ruling.

The passenger train was traveling from Washington to New York on May 13, 2015, when it flew off the rails at more than 100 miles (160 km) per hour, double the posted speed limit, while rounding a curve in Philadelphia.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that Bostian, who tested negative for alcohol and drugs, likely became distracted by radio chatter that a nearby train had been hit by a thrown rock.

A second Philadelphia judge, Thomas Gehret, threw out criminal charges against Bostian last September, finding that the evidence suggested the crash that killed eight people and injured more than 200 was an accident, not the result of a criminal act.

Even though the Philadelphia district attorney’s office had dropped the matter, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro appealed a month later, leading to Tuesday’s ruling.

“This is an important step in the legal process of this case,” Shapiro said in a statement. “We will seek justice for every victim of the Amtrak train crash.”

The case next moves to a preliminary hearing, prosecutors said.

Bostian’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tuesday’s ruling would help bring closure to the families of those who were killed, said Thomas Kline, an attorney who filed a complaint on behalf of the family of crash victim Rachel Jacobs. That action became the basis of the attorney general’s complaint.

“This is about a full measure of justice and about the need to have accountability as well as deterrence for the future,” said Kline.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown

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