The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced Tuesday that it had completed its criminal investigation and that there was not enough evidence to support filing criminal charges. Earlier Story Two years ago this Friday, Amtrak engineer Brandon Bostian drove a seven-car train off the tracks at Frankford Curve , killing eight and injuring more than people.
Why he did this remains a mystery. He had no drugs or alcohol in his system and was not distracted by a cellphone, according to the NTSB. Bostian told the NTSB he did not remember what had happened. The federal agency's review concluded that he lost "situational awareness," probably because of radio chatter about a rock hitting a SEPTA train near Frankford Curve, shortly before the derailment.
Lawyers for the injured have never been satisfied with that explanation, and they fear a window of opportunity to hold Bostian criminally accountable may be closing. Reckless endangerment, a second-degree misdemeanor that carries the possibility of imprisonment, has been discussed as appropriate to the crash's circumstances, and the statute of limitations for that offense expires after two years.
He added, though, that losing the opportunity to charge a lesser offense does not bar prosecutors from filing more serious charges "if they have evidence to back it up. Meeting the commonwealth's legal definition requires a "gross deviation" from normal behavior under the circumstances. The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office was aware of the coming statutory deadline, a spokesman said Friday. Bostian lives in a kind of limbo.
Along with being the subject of a criminal probe for two years without a charge, he is also on unpaid administrative leave from Amtrak, but he remains an employee. In a brief phone call this week, Bostian said only, "I can't comment at this time.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and has since installed on its Northeast Corridor rails an automatic braking system that would have prevented the derailment. Kline, though, says Bostian himself must be held accountable.
Bostian did not answer the door during a visit to his apartment this week. He appears to have moved to Somerville in spring or summer , according to a neighbor and property records. The only insight into Bostian's perspective comes from a lawsuit he filed in January against Amtrak. In the filing, he alleges Amtrak was careless and negligent by failing to provide a safe workplace, proper training, and safety protection. The suit states Bostian suffered injuries to his head, back, and legs, along with psychological injuries.
Amtrak has denied the accusations. The NTSB concluded that if Amtrak had installed Positive Train Control, a braking system that automatically slows a train exceeding rail speed limits, the derailment would not have happened. That system has now been installed on all Amtrak-controlled rail on the Northeast Corridor.
Bostian's Philadelphia lawyer, Robert Goggin, has not responded to requests for an interview. An Amtrak engineer can be suspended, disciplined, or dismissed only after a formal investigation into the person's conduct in cases involving a serious incident, which includes cases of extreme negligence, according to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen's contract. A spokeswoman for Amtrak would not provide information on the status of Bostian's internal disciplinary process or say whether one had begun, saying she could not discuss personnel matters.
It is unclear how the process might have stretched to two years for Bostian, though the contract does allow delays so the subject of an investigation can call witnesses. That person can also appeal a disciplinary decision. Representatives of the BLET also did not return a call for comment.
The portrait that emerged was of a conscientious railway enthusiast who criticized railroad officials for failing to adopt some safety measures and who expressed a sense of responsibility for his passengers. He had worked for Amtrak for about a decade and had been promoted to engineer in He began operating trains on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak's busiest route, about three years before the derailment. A friend from Bostian's teenage years said he knew no one who loved trains more.
Bostian's upstairs neighbor in Somerville, though, Rachel Sheppard, was surprised to learn he worked in rail. He had never discussed his work with her, she said. She knows him only in passing, she said, but he has struck her as a quiet, nice guy.