UPDATE: Former Bartlett resident charged in fatal Amtrak crash after all

[Editor’s note: Major update of criminal charges being filed; 9:32 p.m. May 12, 2017.]

NTSB photo of Amtrak derailment on may 12, 2015
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Robert Sumwalt overlooks the scene of the Amtrak Train #188 derailment in Philadelphia, Penn. Photo source: NTSB, via Flickr.com; some rights reserved.
Brandon Bostian
Brandon Bostian

On Thursday, a judge ordered that criminal charges be brought after all against the train engineer who caused the 2015 Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight people and injured 200 others. The surprise move came just one day after Philly prosecutors announced on Wednesday they did not have enough evidence to charge him.

Charges came late on Friday against engineer Brandon Bostian, a 2001 graduate of Bartlett High School. Other media have reported that Bostian’s attorney is in talks with prosecutors to have him surrender on a felony charge of risking/causing a catastrophe, as well as two misdemeanors over one passenger’s death and seven additional counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The accident on May 12, 2015, killed eight people and injured about 200 others. A statement from the District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday said that Bostian caused the derailment by operating the train far beyond the speed limit at the Frankford Junction in Pennsylvania (reported by multiple sources as 106 mph in a 50 mph curve).

The charges are an abrupt change from Wednesday’s press release from the D.A.’s office, saying that there is no evidence to show that Bostian acted with criminal intent or knowledge under Pennsylvania law, and there is not enough to evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with criminal recklessness.

Wednesday’s conclusion came after an extensive investigation: Two senior members of the Homicide Unit worked closely with Philadelphia Police and Amtrak officials, including experienced train engineers. Both Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) consulted with officials of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and thoroughly reviewed the NTSB report. They rode in the cab of a train along the route leading to the scene of the derailment. The team reviewed the audio tapes of what the engineer said and heard before the derailment, and reviewed the engineer’s cell phone, cell phone records, and cell site data. Finally, the two senior Homicide ADAs consulted with experts in train operation.