The state's top prosecutor on Friday charged a speeding Amtrak engineer with causing a catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter and other crimes in a 2015 derailment that came after he accelerated to 106 mph on a 50 mph curve.
Prosecutors said they were in talks with engineer Brandon Bostian's attorney to have him surrender on the charges.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro expanded on charges a Philadelphia judge approved a day earlier after the family of a woman killed in the crash sought a private criminal complaint. The judge ordered city prosecutors to charge Bostian with two misdemeanors over Rachel Jacobs' death in the May 12, 2015, derailment. Shapiro added the felony charge of risking or causing a catastrophe along with seven additional counts of involuntary manslaughter.
"This would not have happened had a courageous family, the Jacobs family, not stood up against the decision of a local prosecutor not to press charges," said lawyer Thomas R. Kline, who had sought the private complaint on the family's behalf. "That was clearly wrong, as evidenced by the attorney general not only reversing course but adding charges."
Kline said the attorney general on Friday "correctly and appropriately charged Brandon Bostian for his reckless disregard of the passengers in whose safety he was entrusted."
Philadelphia prosecutors had earlier declined to charge Bostian, citing insufficient evidence that he acted with intent or conscious disregard for the passengers' safety. The crash killed eight people and injured about 200 others. Jacobs, a technology executive, was a wife and mother.
Court records list addresses for Bostian in New York City and in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston. Bostian's lawyer hasn't returned messages seeking comment this week.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and agreed to pay $265 million to settle claims filed by victims and their families. Kline and attorney Robert Mongeluzzi, who helped negotiate the settlement, announced the judge's order late Thursday.
Bostian has a personal-injury lawsuit pending against Amtrak. He said he was left disoriented or unconscious when something struck his train before it derailed. He had become aware, through radio traffic, that a nearby commuter train had been struck by a rock. However, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that nothing struck his locomotive.
Private criminal complaints are occasionally used in low-level crimes not witnessed by police or, sometimes, when charges are not filed for political reasons, experts said.
"The private complaint mechanism exists for cases where the police can't make an arrest and, arguably, for cases where they won't but they should," said Jules Epstein, a Temple University law professor.