Am­trak en­gi­neer clear in fa­tal crash

New York Post - - NEWS - By DANIELLE FURFARO

A Philadel­phia judge dropped all crim­i­nal charges Tues­day against an Am­trak en­gi­neer at the helm dur­ing a deadly derail­ment — fol­low­ing a pre­trial hear­ing full of emo­tional sur­vivor tes­ti­mony.

“I feel it’s more likely an ac­ci­dent than crim­i­nal neg­li­gence,” said Judge Thomas Gehret af­ter a pre­lim­i­nary ev­i­dence hear­ing on the 2015 crash in Philadel­phia, which left eight peo­ple dead and 200 in­jured.

Train en­gi­neer Bran­don Bos­tian of As­to­ria, Queens, had faced in­vol­un­tary- man slaugh­ter and reck­less-en­dan­ger­ment raps for bar­rel­ing into a curve at more than twice the 50 mph speed limit while at the con­trols of the north­east-cor­ri­dor train on the night of May 12, 2015.

The 34-year-old en­gi­neer had be­come dis­tracted by ra­dio chat­ter about a nearby train that was struck by a rock, ac­cord­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Crash sur­vivor Blair Ber­man tes­ti­fied Tues­day that she re­al­ized her train was “go­ing way too fast” just be­fore it de­railed, yank­ing out her head­phones to the sound of fel­low pas­sen­gers shout­ing.

“I heard scream­ing from the front of the car and then a big bang, and then I blacked out,” Ber­man said.

She added she was thrown from the wreck­age — and when she woke up, she found her­self ly­ing in the mid­dle of the woods with other pas­sen­gers on top of her.

Ber­man de­scribed see­ing Bos­tian walk­ing around af­ter the crash. But she said that when she ap­proached the train en­gi­neer for help, he wouldn’t let her use his phone, de­spite the fact that she was bare­foot and hob­bling, hav­ing bro­ken sev­eral bones in the ejec­tion. She said she screamed at him, and he fi­nally re­lented and let her use the phone to call her fa­ther.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board last year ruled that Bos­tian was to blame for the hor­ror.

Am­trak struck a set­tle­ment in Oc­to­ber with sur­vivors and the dead vic­tims’ fam­i­lies to pay them a to­tal of $265 mil­lion.

But press­ing crim­i­nal charges against Bos­tian seemed doomed al­most from the start.

The Philadel­phia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice at first re­fused to pur­sue a crim­i­nal case against him.

“We have no ev­i­dence that the en­gi­neer acted with crim­i­nal ‘in­tent’ or crim­i­nal ‘knowl­edge,’ ” the DA said in a state­ment at the time.

“Nor do we be­lieve there is suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to prove, be­yond a rea­son­able doubt, crim­i­nal reck­less­ness.

“Penn­syl­va­nia law spe­cially states that one acts with crim­i­nal reck­less­ness when a per­son ‘con­sciously dis­re­gards a sub­stan­tial and un­jus­ti­fi­able risk.’ We do not have ev­i­dence suf­fi­cient to prove be­yond a rea­son­able doubt that the en­gi­neer ‘con­sciously’ dis­re­garded the risk.’’

But a mu­nic­i­pal-court judge then in­ter­vened, or­der­ing pros­e­cu­tors to ar­rest the en­gi­neer.

A lawyer who rep­re­sented some of the vic­tims in their civil cases against Am­trak said Tues­day’s rul­ing that tossed the charges against Bos­tian “doesn’t mean he didn’t do any­thing wrong.”

“It doesn’t mean he wasn’t neg­li­gent. It doesn’t mean that his ac­tions didn’t hurt peo­ple,’’ said the lawyer, Benedict Morelli.

“It just means he’s not pay­ing for it by go­ing to prison.”

‘AN AC­CI­DENT’: En­gi­neer Bran­don Bos­tian (right, at court Tues­day) is free of all charges in the May 2015 crash (above) that killed eight and in­jured 200 in Philadel­phia.

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