Former Bartlett resident and suspended Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian got some stunning news on Feb. 6: He will stand trial after all for the 2015 train accident that killed eight people and left about 200 more injured.
Bostian, 34, is a 2001 graduate of Bartlett High School.
The prosecution has been a stop-and-start affair from the beginning. Prosecutors initially said there wasn’t enough evidence to make a case against Bostian, but another judge overruled them after hearing a private criminal complaint from the family of one of the victims.
Bostian was arrested on May 18, 2017, as the statue of limitations to charge him was rapidly approaching. His attorneys argued that his due process rights were violated.
Then in September 2017, the court dismissed all charges of involuntary manslaughter as well as the 238 counts of recklessly endangering another person. Philadelphia Municipal Judge Thomas Gehret dismissed the charges and cited a lack of evidence at a preliminary hearing for Bostian. He said he believes the crash was more likely an accident than criminal negligence.
The crash happened on May 12, 2015, when Bostian’s train came off the tracks at the Frankford Junction in Pennsylvania when it entered a 50-mph curve at 106 mph.
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found no evidence of impairment or use of a cellphone or other distracting device while on duty. Since the accident, Amtrak has invested in speed controls on all its tracks on the corridor between Boston and Washington.
The NTSB investigators concluded that Bostian must have lost his bearings while distracted by radio conversations about something striking a nearby train.
The Feb. 6 news came from Judge Kathryn S. Lewis, of the criminal trial division, Court of Common Pleas, First Judicial District of Pennsylvania. She ruled that the previous judge made a mistake in dismissing the charges. In her opinion, the evidence was enough to allow a trial.
Bostian’s attorneys did not comment on the ruling.
Bostian will be arraigned on Feb. 21 and has opted not to attend.
In the wake of the accident’s investigation, Amtrak has agreed to pay a $265 million settlement with victims and their families.
CAROLYN BAHM is the editor of The Bartlett Express. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.