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Judge reinstates charges in Philly crash

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Ziv

OBS Chief
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Oct 25, 2011
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636
This case has me seeing both sides of the issue. He made a mistake and I don't believe that there was drug use or use of a cell phone to distract him. I think he allowed himself to lose his situational awareness for some reason and 8 people died because of that loss.
Is that a crime? I think it is. He was negligent. He forgot his training and is responsible for the deaths of his passengers.
BUT... This would be the case, UNLESS his claim is true that his locomotive was struck with a large stone as well as the commuter train that was hit, and that he was injured prior to the accident.
I just don't see how the court will be able to make a considered decision when whether or not his locomotive was struck prior to the accident will be so hard to determine.
This has been a complete tragedy for everyone involved.

 

Steve4031

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Iirc correctly this occurred on a section of track that did not have the advanced signal system that most of the NEC had at the time. This cost cutting contributed to the situation imho. Iirc this system would have stopped or slowed the train which would have prevented the derailment. To hold the engineer criminally negligent is over top imho. It’s passing judgment without being in the guys shoes.
 

west point

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Jun 9, 2015
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Amtrak was negligent that the signal before the accident site did not display an approach 60? at all times . Cab signal system would have slowed the train. That would have been a relative cheap system that Amtrak did not do. This was after Amtrak had other curve over speeds and MNRR also had the incident in NYC.
 

me_little_me

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Jul 16, 2010
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Amtrak was negligent that the signal before the accident site did not display an approach 60? at all times . Cab signal system would have slowed the train. That would have been a relative cheap system that Amtrak did not do. This was after Amtrak had other curve over speeds and MNRR also had the incident in NYC.
So you are saying Amtrak was also negligent or the only negligent party because they didn't protect him from his own negligence? Does that lessen his responsibility? What if it had occurred before Amtrak had put in any cab signals? "You put it in trains for other places but not for mine so I'm not responsible" is a valid defense?
I'm not implying his negligence was criminal. It all depends on other factors but your suggestion IMHO is not one of them.
 

keelhauled

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Oct 3, 2014
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There’s no way the guy was criminally negligent. He was distracted by several strange things and he thought he had already gone through the curve.
The article says that the specific charges are not of negligence, but of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Pennsylvania law appears to define recklessness as being when "A person acts recklessly with respect to a material element of an offense when he consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the material element exists or will result from his conduct. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and intent of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation."

That actually seems to be higher standard than negligence, in which a person merely "should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk." In any case, it seems to me that a reasonable person, being (allegedly) disoriented and (indisputably) responsible for the safety of several hundred other people, should have operated the train in such a manner as to minimize risk to its passengers, up to and including stopping entirely until he regained situational awareness. It is baffling to me that not only did Bostian fail to do so, he has to date seen no consequences for his actions.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Oct 21, 2015
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The risk must be of such a nature and degree that, considering the nature and intent of the actor's conduct and the circumstances known to him, its disregard involves a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the actor's situation."
A reasonable person would be expected to possibly behave in the exact same way if multiple major distractions occurred at night while traveling at 60 mph.
 

keelhauled

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A reasonable person would be expected to possibly behave in the exact same way if multiple major distractions occurred at night while traveling at 60 mph.
The NTSB report found only one distracting event to have occurred--radio communications from a SEPTA train that had had a rock thrown at it. It seems to me intrinsic to the job of being a locomotive engineer to be able to pay attention to both the radio and your locomotive. Surely this cannot be disputed.
 

PVD

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Amtrak assumed civil liability to the maximum permitted by law, the issue of negligence is off the table. The question is not negligence, it is whether or not the actions of the engineer were criminally negligent under PA law, and whether or not it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. That is entirely separate from regular negligence. Many different opinions, theories, and thoughts on the topic, but most focus on things that are not really in play. Lots of very bad things can happen that are not necessarily criminal under the applicable laws.
 

crescent-zephyr

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The NTSB report found only one distracting event to have occurred--radio communications from a SEPTA train that had had a rock thrown at it. It seems to me intrinsic to the job of being a locomotive engineer to be able to pay attention to both the radio and your locomotive. Surely this cannot be disputed.
I don’t think we will agree on this.

I’ve controlled shove moves at 20 mph and been distracted by trespassers and could have sworn we were at a different place on the railroad. Fortunately for me, we were only at 20 mph, and I had an engineer who was controlling the speed based on where we were.
 

Acela150

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I don’t think we will agree on this.

I’ve controlled shove moves at 20 mph and been distracted by trespassers and could have sworn we were at a different place on the railroad. Fortunately for me, we were only at 20 mph, and I had an engineer who was controlling the speed based on where we were.
I'm going to agree with you. I have been on that stretch of RR, granted on the Delair Branch which is Conrail turf and 25 MPH, I have been "rocked" a few times on that stretch.

I will add that only one person has said that the person(s) who threw the rocks were at least partially responsible for the 188 incident, and that person is spot on. That person? Septa's Chief of Police.
 

flitcraft

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Jan 10, 2018
Messages
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The charges against the engineer will be very difficult to sustain, given both the high degree of fault needed for criminal negligence and that the charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Having said that, as a former defense lawyer, I (reluctantly) agree that, as a matter of law, the charges probably shouldn't have been dismissed. For a dismissal, the court must conclude that no fact-finding jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the engineer was criminally negligent. It isn't enough for a dismissal that most juries would conclude that there was no criminal negligence. When the evidence hasn't yet been presented in court, a legally sufficient affidavit of probable cause is almost always enough to defeat a pretrial motion to dismiss. Still, color me surprised if the case proceeds to a full trial, and even more if it ends in anything other than acquittal.
 

dlagrua

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After reading all the posts it still doesn't change the fact that 8 people have been killed. They didn't die of natural causes but from a train wreck. Rather than to judge if the engineer was innocent or guilty this must go to a jury trail . Hopefuly a fair and just verdict will be reached.
 

west point

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Jun 9, 2015
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INHO there is plenty negligence to go around. The engineer as has been posted continuously. The rock throwers but they will never be found. Amtrak taking its sweet time correcting the signal system to note the various curve restrictions. ACS was ad is on all of the NEC. Amtrak had the overspeed incident at Boston's Back Bay station. That should have wakened Amtrak but they passed it off as a one off incident.

Then MNRR had the overspeed in NY City. Again Amtrak says it won't happen on our RR. That wreck was probably incapacitation. There has and will be in the future incidents of engineer incapacitation. Amtrak did not recognize that an engineer might become incapacitated at Frankford CP or the other locations where speed reductions are required. . It was not incapacitation at Frankford but likely that it would happen there or some where else was not considered.

The FRA woke up and required Amtrak to fix these problems on all Amtrak owned lines. Note MNRR fixed both the New Haven line and Hudson line from these problems after the NY City incident.;

Now if Pennsylvania tried to charge the Amtrak official that decided not to install these signal conditions that might be interesting.
 
Joined
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I will add that only one person has said that the person(s) who threw the rocks were at least partially responsible for the 188 incident, and that person is spot on. That person? Septa's Chief of Police.
I have thought this, too, the whole time. I find it ironic that there was no real search for the rock throwers—I believe there was some talk that this was a fairly regular occurrence and from that same spot.

So between surveillance video and just general knowledge of what went on there, they couldn’t at least try to find the culprits?

But they can go after a man who was a good employee but had a split-second attention lapse and whose conscience must torment him every day?

It was a dreadful, dreadful mistake, but I think they should allow the man to live the rest of his tortured life in privacy. He will never find peace, and I think that is punishment enough.
 

Skyline

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Feb 19, 2016
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741
I have thought this, too, the whole time. I find it ironic that there was no real search for the rock throwers—I believe there was some talk that this was a fairly regular occurrence and from that same spot.

So between surveillance video and just general knowledge of what went on there, they couldn’t at least try to find the culprits?

But they can go after a man who was a good employee but had a split-second attention lapse and whose conscience must torment him every day?

It was a dreadful, dreadful mistake, but I think they should allow the man to live the rest of his tortured life in privacy. He will never find peace, and I think that is punishment enough.

I was about to write something similar. Then I read your words. I couldn't have said it better. No point in writing now though I'll add my $.02 below.

Nothing will bring back the eight souls that perished. Nothing will ever alleviate the guilt that Brandon must feel everyday, even for something he did not control. There is no way this was a negligent or criminal act on his part. It was from all factual accounts an unavoidable tragic accident that could have happened anywhere, anytime an engineer is momentarily startled by events beyond his control.

The fact that technology -- not installed -- could have helped save lives is the place to look if one is seeking vengeance. And of course, the rock thrower. Reinstating charges might give a little closure to the victims' families, but it is misplaced. I hope the jury sees that Brandon is innocent and is suffering alongside them.
 

Green Maned Lion

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Dec 27, 2007
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8,209
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Somebody must be responsible for everything. Take the Virus. Depending on who you ask, Trump, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Illuminati, some governors, and for all I know the bloody Flying Speghetti Monster is fully responsible.

I'm not exonerating anyone in the case of the Coronavirus, but the chief responsible party is most likely a freak a nature. Sure there are people and places that could have done- or could be doing- a better job of identifying the circumstances and balancing economy, social need, and public safety. But all of it is response in the moment. It's hard to make decisions quickly with limited data and the certainty of substantial impact.

The engineer of the train reacted to an unpredictable event, and given what was known to him in each second of that event, made choices. Some of them were apparently the wrong choices. He is guilty of negligence, without question. But that is not a crime. From the facts I know he I feel he is not guilty of 'gross negligence', let alone 'recklessness'.
 
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