Amtrak engineer acquitted in 2015 fatal crash trial – CBS Baltimore

PHILADELPHIA (AP/WJZ) — An Amtrak engineer has been acquitted of charges in connection with a fatal high-speed derailment that killed eight and injured hundreds in Philadelphia in 2015.

After a little over an hour of deliberation, the jury acquitted 38-year-old engineer Brandon Bostian of causing a disaster, involuntary manslaughter and negligent endangerment.

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Eight people died and more than 200 were injured when the train went around a curve at more than twice its maximum speed and derailed in north Philadelphia. Amtrak agreed to pay the victims and their families $265 million in civil damages.

As WJZ previously reported, two of the victims were from Maryland and a third attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Abid Gilani, a 55-year-old Wells Fargo executive who formerly lived in Rockville, businessman Bob Gildersleeve and midshipman Justin Zemser were among those killed.

Bostian’s attorney described him as a lifelong train fan who had a perfect work record until he became distracted by people throwing rocks in the area just before the accident. Prosecutors say he acted with reckless disregard for the safety of his passengers, who were traveling from Washington to New York that Tuesday night. The train had stopped at the 30th Street station in Philadelphia about 10 minutes earlier and was headed north.

Federal safety investigators concluded that on the track, Bostian lost what they call “situational awareness” because he thought he was behind an S-curve and on a straight as he accelerated from about 65 mph to 106 mph accelerated. In fact, he was in the middle of the S-curve, driving more than twice the top speed. Investigators found no evidence that he was impaired or using his cell phone at the time.

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Amtrak settled civil litigation involving victims and their families in 2016 for $265 million, a new, higher limit set by Congress after the crash. The criminal case had a more unusual history.

Philadelphia’s chief attorney general declined to pursue criminal charges after the National Transportation and Safety Board released its findings. The attorney general’s office later took the case to court after the families of some of the victims filed charges.

The jury had begun considering the charges on Friday morning when the judge announced around noon that a deputy would step in. The jury then began their deliberations again.

The jury had to decide whether Bostian was speeding intentionally and knew the risks — the threshold required for criminal negligence.

Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott said the juror, whose sister died Thursday night, arrived in court on Friday and began deliberations before asking for his release.

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Jake Nichol

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