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Queens Chronicle

Penn. judge dismisses Amtrak crash charges

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Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 2:46 pm

A Pennsylvania judge has dismissed criminal charges against a former Forest Hills resident in the May 2015 crash of an Amtrak train that killed eight people and injured more than 200.

Brandon Bostian, 34, was the engineer on the train that derailed outside Philadelphia as it entered a curve at 106 miles per hour. The speed limit was 50.

Rockaway Beach resident Justin Zemser, a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy and former intern with Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), and Douglaston native Laura Finamore, 47, a real estate executive with Cushman & Wakefield, were among those killed.

According to published reports, Judge Thomas Gehret ruled on Sept. 12 that the crash was “more likely an accident than criminal negligence.”

Court records available online show Bostian now lives in Massachusetts.

The National Transportation Safety Board found Bostian at fault, determining that he had been distracted by a radio report that a nearby train had been hit by a thrown rock. It also faulted Amtrak for its then-continued failure to install Positive Train Control technology. PTC can automatically slow a train that is exceeding the speed limit along given sections of track, and has been advocated by the NTSB since the 1970s.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office earlier this year declined to prosecute Bostian, citing concerns that the available evidence did not rise to the level required in the state to pursue criminal charges. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office took over the case after relatives of crash victims lodged criminal complaints.

“The Amtrak crash was a tragedy and this case has a unique procedural history,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement issued by his office on Tuesday. “We are carefully reviewing the judge’s decision, notes of testimony and our prosecutorial responsibilities in this case going forward.” 

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