ABOVE PHOTO: Cars from an Amtrak train that derailed. Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times via AP)
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge has reinstated all charges brought against an Amtrak engineer for his role in a high-speed derailment in Philadelphia in 2015 that killed eight people.
The ruling Thursday by Superior Court Judge Victor Stabile overturns a lower court’s decision last July to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges against Brandon Bostian. His lawyer, Brian McMonagle, has argued that any mistakes Bostian made did not rise to the level of a crime.
Ruling on an appeal brought by the state attorney general’s office, Stabile found the dismissal was based on fact-finding that should happen in a trial, a decision that McMonagle said would be appealed. Stabile said the lower court’s role was only to determine whether the state presented enough evidence to warrant a trial, and prosecutors met that burden, he ruled.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said it can move forward “in our work to deliver justice.”
“The families who lost loved ones in this fateful crash and the many passengers who were injured deserve closure,” his office said in a statement.
The derailment happened in May 2015, when the New York-bound train jumped the track as it rounded a curve at more than twice the 50 mph (80 kph) speed limit.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded Bostian lost his bearings while distracted by radio chatter about a nearby train that had been struck by a rock. They found no evidence he was impaired or was using a cellphone.
The case against Bostian has seen a series of reversals of prosecutors’ or judges’ decisions that the engineer should not be held criminally culpable for what happened that night.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash, agreeing to pay $265 million to settle claims filed by victims and their families. Since the accident, the railroad has installed positive train control technology on its Boston-to-Washington tracks that can automatically slow or stop a speeding train.