"All Pennsylvanians should be grateful that there is an Attorney General willing to do what is right and just to hold Engineer Bostian accountable for his reckless conduct", attorney Thomas R. Kline said on behalf of the Jacobs family and the families of the other victims.
Brandon Bostian faces eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and other crimes including causing a catastrophe and reckless endangerment. He had become aware, through radio traffic, that a nearby commuter train had been struck by a rock. But in a follow-up interview with NTSB investigators six months later, Bostian, who suffered a head injury during the crash, seemed to have remembered more steps he took moments before the train derailed.
"I firmly believe that the overwhelming evidence of Brandon Bostian operating a train at 106 miles per hour in a 50 miles per hour zone, around a curve, consciously accelerating and then consciously decelerating, while having responsibility for the safety of 248 people meets the standard of reckless endangerment".
Emergency personnel work near the wreckage of the New York City-bound Amtrak passenger train following the May 13, 2015, derailment in Philadelphia. "In view of our earlier decision not to file charges, we have referred this prosecution to the Pennsylvania attorney general", it read.
The NTSB said it found no evidence that Bostian was impaired or using a cellphone during the Washington-to-New York run.
Temple University professor Jules Epstein says the office could arrest engineer Brandon Bostian, seek to dismiss the case, appeal or ask the judge to reconsider her ruling. A Naval Academy midshipman and a man from Howard County were among the dead.
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Sprague sought the order along with plaintiffs' lawyers Kline and Robert Mongeluzzi, who represent dozens of victims in lawsuits against Amtrak.
Amtrak agreed to a $265 million settlement with the injured and families of those killed. Called Positive Train Control, the system will automatically slow a train that is speeding. The NTSB has said had that equipment been installed the accident would not have happened.
"The evidence indicates that the derailment was caused by the engineer operating the train far in excess of the speed limit".
Bostian has not spoken publicly about the derailment in the two years since.
The judge's unusual order came a day before Friday's two-year deadline to file charges in the May 12, 2015, crash that killed eight. "The judge this afternoon overruled them, overruled the DA's office", Kline said. "Here is a woman who died and nobody's being punished", the father, John Jacobs, told The Associated Press this week.