PHILADELPHIA (AP) — For the second time, a judge threw out all charges Tuesday against an Amtrak engineer for his role in a high-speed derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight people, saying: “The law recognizes we’re all human.”
Common Pleas Judge Barbara McDermott rejected the involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges after Brandon Bostian’s lawyers argued that any mistakes he made did not rise to the level of a crime.
Two judges and the city’s district attorney have now concluded that no charges should be filed against Bostian over the 2015 wreck, which also injured about 200 people.
The state attorney general’s office, which pursued the case after the district attorney refused, will appeal, said spokeswoman Jacklin Rhoades. Bostian remains free in the meantime.
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.
“We don’t lock up doctors when they commit malpractice and they make a mistake,” defense lawyer Brian McMonagle told The Associated Press. The judge “did the right thing.”
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash, agreeing to pay $265 million to settle claims filed by victims and their families.
“It’s a very big disappointment to the families who have been waiting for some measure of public accountability and justice,” attorney Thomas R. Kline, who represents two of the families, said of the latest ruling. “We are hopeful that that day will come after appellate review and hopeful for a reversal of today’s decision.”
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.