An Amtrak engineer charged with hundreds of counts related to a 2015 train derailment in Philadelphia in which eight people were killed and hundreds more were injured was acquitted Friday.
A jury took just over an hour to clear Brandon Bostian, 38, of causing a catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment — one count for each injury and death.
Bostian was at the controls of the New York-bound train traveling at 106 mph when it rounded a curve in north Philadelphia before it derailed.
The train, a locomotive with seven passenger cars, was moving at 106 mph as it entered a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph, Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said. Sumwalt said the engineer applied the train’s emergency brakes right before the crash. The last recorded speed was 102 mph before the entire train flew off the rails.
"It's been seven years for him wondering if he’ll ever get his life back. Today the jury gave him his life back," defense lawyer Brian McMonagle said after the verdict. "We've been saying from the beginning there was never a crime committed here by Brandon."
He described his client as a train buff who had a perfect work record until he was distracted by people throwing rocks in the area just before the crash. He said the people who threw the rocks should be charged.
They were never arrested. The Pennsylvania attorney general's office took the case after Philadelphia's top prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges.
Prosecutors argued Bostian, who no longer works for Amtrak, acted with reckless disregard for the safety of his passengers, who were traveling from Washington to New York that Tuesday evening. The train had stopped at Philadelphia’s 30th Street station about 10 minutes earlier and was heading north.
"There is no question that the excessive speed of the train that the defendant operated resulted in death and injury to his passengers," the state Attorney General's Office said in a statement, adding that it pursued the case to seek justice for victims and their families. "Ultimately, the jury did not find his actions to be criminal, and we respect the jury’s verdict."
Amtrak has settled lawsuits over the crash for $265 million.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.