News Wire: Charges against Amtrak 188 engineer again dropped

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Posted by Brian Schmidt on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 4:51 PM

PHILADELPHIA — For a second time, criminal charges have been dropped against the engineer of an Amtrak train involved in a fatal derailment in Philadelphia in 2015. Charges against Brian Bostian, 36, were dropped after Court of Common Pleas Jud...

http://trn.trains.com/news/news-wire/2019/07/23-charges-against-amtrak-188-engineer-again-dropped

Brian Schmidt, Associate Editor Trains Magazine

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 7:20 PM

The charges were a grand stand play by the prosecutor for whatever political advantage he thought he could get.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 6:47 AM

I believe that the criminal charges were pressed based on a quirk in Pennsylvania law that allowed survivors of the victims of the crash to press charges on their own initiative.

Sounds more like vengeance than justice to me.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 8:01 AM

Possibly the prosecutor wanted a high-profile "scalp" on his belt before moving on to other things.  Some are like that, they have no intention of working for the government (Federal, state, or local) if they can move to a high-paying gig with a prestigious law firm.  Winning a big case can make it happen.

Looks like in this case the judge said "Cool it!  Enough is enough!  Dont' waste the court's time!"  At least in so many words.

Mr. Bostian's life is ruined anyway.  When he goes to bed at night and looks at the shadows on the ceiling I wouldn't want to see what he sees.  

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, July 25, 2019 9:59 AM

I don't  know the niceties of PA law,  but Bostian demonstrated gross negligence.  He should be held responsible for the deaths and ruining many others' lives and pay a price  beyond losing a job and possibly having nightmares. . 

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, July 25, 2019 10:30 AM

Remember this was a criminal trial, and nothing whatsoever would be served by throwing Bostian in the pokey or giving the Government revenue from some fine or other.  As noted, his conscience should be bad enough for punishment.

Where the action will be is in civil trials, particularly if Bostian has no statutory immunity and Amtrak limits itself to that $225 million cap.  That's where the poetic justice might be imposed properly: make him responsible for a long-term share of the results of the suffering he caused.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, July 25, 2019 11:45 AM

It's a closed matter but I  think society benefits from people who are so negligent (with lethal consequences from their negligence) doing some time and community service. Some drunk drivers have. It tends to have a chilling effect on people engaging in  carelessness.

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Posted by Overmod on Thursday, July 25, 2019 12:16 PM

charlie hebdo
I think society benefits from people who are so negligent (with lethal consequences from their negligence) doing some time and community service. Some drunk drivers have.

I do tend to agree with you on this in some ways -- including the idea that folks like Harvey Weinstein and Jeff Epstein need a lesson that even the best justice money can buy won't get you out of.  (On the other hand, misapplication for political reasons, just  as in Bostian's case, can be enough of a factor as to have you question it as a general policy unless applied fairly in all cases -- Dinesh d'Souza and Martha Stewart being two fairly recent cases in point.)

The thing about drunk driving is that it's fair to consider it a voluntary, statutory offense to engage in behavior in the first place that might come to have aspects of 'negligence' or 'carelessness' later.  I might even come to support somewhat backhanded interpretations of that principle, like New Jersey's idea of treating 'driving while fatigued' just like any other form of 'driving while impaired' including the throw-the-book punishments and perhaps arbitrary test or 'profiling' opportunities common to those, if in fact the result is actually meant and administered to foster safety (and not, say, a fishing expedition against something else expedient).

But Bostian, at least, didn't engage in conscious carelessness, or the kind of behavior that might establish him as 'negligent' other than in the event.  I happen to still believe that he mistook his position on the railroad (at least in part due to PTSD-like reactions to a fatiguing Acela trip in, and then the reports of 'rocking', and while that's bad judgment, I'm not sure that draconian results-based punishment actually serves as the right kind of 'chilling effect'.

On the other hand, making him spend many hours of service talking to, say, school kids or groups of Amtrak employees about the need to stay vigilant and aware at all times, even when distracted would serve a useful and cautionary purpose, both to him and many prospective 'future fellow travelers' as it were.  And yes, as I said before, making him even symbolically responsible for a personal share of the civil damages he caused is reasonable and just (and I think sets a more valid, and perhaps more long-term memorable, precedent).

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Posted by zugmann on Thursday, July 25, 2019 12:40 PM

charlie hebdo

I don't  know the niceties of PA law,  but Bostian demonstrated gross negligence.  He should be held responsible for the deaths and ruining many others' lives and pay a price  beyond losing a job and possibly having nightmares. . 

 

Negligence does not equal gross negligence.  And I don't think he fits the qualifiers for gross negligence.

I'm sure lots of civil action is yet to come, but I don't think the criminal courts is the place for this.

 

Drunk drivers make the choice to impair themselves then drive.  I don't think it's a fair comparison.

 

--

 

The AG spot in PA is a popular place to springboard to higher poilitical office from.  I think that's the motivation here.

 The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer or any other railroad, company, or person.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, July 25, 2019 3:35 PM

zugmann
The AG spot in PA is a popular place to springboard to higher poilitical office from.  I think that's the motivation here.

That I agree on. 

As to criminal negligence: In the state of California for example, in order to convict someone of criminal negligence, it is necessary for the prosecutor to prove three elements:

  1. That the defendant acted so recklessly that they created a high risk of death or major bodily injury.  [Clearly he did]
  2. That the defendant’s actions showed a disregard for human life or an indifference to the consequences.  [This is debatable]
  3. That a reasonable person in a similar situation would have known that the actions would have probably resulted in harm to other individuals.   [Common sense dictates one does not exceed the speed limit so blatantly]

    Perhaps PA is different, as I said.  
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Thursday, July 25, 2019 3:42 PM

Civil actions against an individual not convicted in a criminal trial make me very nervous, and they should make us all nervous.

Why?  Well several years ago I was listening to a radio show where the distinguished lawyer and law professor Alan Dershowitz was a guest, a conservative talk show by the way.

Anyway, both Mr. Dershowitz and the conservative host, a lawyer himself, both agreed that civil actions after a criminal trial aquittal swerved very, very close to double jeopardy.  In both their opinions, and in so many words if you're tried and aquitted that should be the end of it.  Period.  

Mr. Dershowitz said something else on another show that impressed me.

"Let me let you in on a little secret.  98% of the people sitting in the defendants chair are guilty."  Interesting.

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Posted by aegrotatio on Saturday, July 27, 2019 9:47 PM

Please let this poor guy down off this cross. This was NOT gross negligence as another poster has said.  It was a crew resource management incident and that alone.  We don't prosecute crew survivors of air crashes that were the fault of the crew, do we?

His career and lifetime ambitions are already worse than ruined. They need to stop trying to ruin his life.

 

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Posted by daveklepper on Sunday, July 28, 2019 4:30 AM

This was not the first over-speed derailment at this location.  I am still of the opinion that a permanent speed restriction was programmed into the PRR ATS system for this particular curve, and that this safety feature, the entire ATS system, had been removed to make Amtrak’s version of PTC easier to install; and this removal was a definite contribution to the event.  And rocks were thrown at trains close to this location.  Euclid, have you ever had rocks thrown at you?  When walking by yourself and/or in an automobile?  His record up to the event was about as perfect as any Amtrak engineer could have.
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Posted by Euclid on Sunday, July 28, 2019 7:00 PM

daveklepper
Euclid, have you ever had rocks thrown at you? When walking by yourself and/or in an automobile? His record up to the event was about as perfect as any Amtrak engineer could have.

How did I get into this?  But now that I am here, I agree that Bostian's error was not that much of an offense.  I am not sure if he or anyone else really knows why he apparenly forgot to slow down.  I would say it would be wise to equip deadly curves with some type of warning.  Otherwise someone is bound to make a mistake and over she goes.   

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, July 28, 2019 8:41 PM

charlie hebdo

I don't  know the niceties of PA law,  but Bostian demonstrated gross negligence.  He should be held responsible for the deaths and ruining many others' lives and pay a price  beyond losing a job and possibly having nightmares. . 

I'm surprised to see a psychologist making light of PTSD.

Bostian made a terrible mistake, but still a mistake.  There was no wrong intent, just human error.

Something to think about the next time any one of us drives a car while tired.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, July 28, 2019 8:50 PM

zugmann

Negligence does not equal gross negligence.  And I don't think he fits the qualifiers for gross negligence.

I'm sure lots of civil action is yet to come, but I don't think the criminal courts is the place for this.

Quebec tried prosecuting the Engineer (Tom Harding), Dispatcher and a Supervisor after the Lac-Megantic disaster.  They jury found them not guilty. 

Harding later voluntarily plead guilty to a lesser charge under Canada's Railway Safety Act, and received a 6 month conditional sentence and 240 hours of community service, but no jail time.

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/lac-megantic-train-conductor-thomas-harding-declines-offer-from-louiseville-mayor

Greetings from Alberta

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, July 28, 2019 9:00 PM

What does it say about our 'humanity' that we, as some elements of society do, feel than any human mistake must be a criminal act?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, July 28, 2019 10:08 PM

BaltACD
What does it say about our 'humanity' that we, as some elements of society do, feel than any human mistake must be a criminal act?

I agree lack of evidence means you don't charge the guy even if you want to nail someone.    Accidents happen and his record prior was excellent, which should count for something.   I am just really surprised he hasn't been tested for sleep apnea because his discription of events leading up to the crash and his lack of memory are consistent with a loss of consciousness due to sleep deprivation.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Sunday, July 28, 2019 10:11 PM

SD70Dude
I'm surprised to see a psychologist making light of PTSD. Bostian made a terrible mistake, but still a mistake.  There was no wrong intent, just human error. Something to think about the next time any one of us drives a car while tired.

Additionally, I would point out that most that suffer from sleep apnea are completely clueless they have it unless a second party observes them while sleeping.   Sleep apnea can manifest itself as a sudden loss of consciousness with memory loss accompanying it.   Really surprised Bostonian has not been tested for sleep apnea, seems like nobody really cares what the cause of the crash was anymore.......they just want a sacrificial lamb.    From the description of the accident it really sounds like Bostonian has sleep apnea.

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Posted by SD70Dude on Sunday, July 28, 2019 10:19 PM

CMStPnP
SD70Dude
I'm surprised to see a psychologist making light of PTSD. Bostian made a terrible mistake, but still a mistake.  There was no wrong intent, just human error. Something to think about the next time any one of us drives a car while tired.

Additionally, I would point out that most that suffer from sleep apnea are completely clueless they have it unless a second party observes them while sleeping.   Sleep apnea can manifest itself as a sudden loss of consciousness with memory loss accompanying it.   Really surprised Bostonian has not been tested for sleep apnea, seems like nobody really cares what the cause of the crash was anymore.......they just want a sacrificial lamb.    From the description of the accident it really sounds like Bostonian has sleep apnea.

You don't need to have sleep apnea or fall into a microsleep to zone out for a minute. 

Ever snapped out of it while driving and realized you don't remember a thing about the last couple miles?  I certainly have, sometimes not long after waking up from a good, restful sleep.

If only I had a loonie for every time "what was that last signal?" has been asked in the cab...

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Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, July 28, 2019 11:07 PM

CMStPnP
 
SD70Dude
I'm surprised to see a psychologist making light of PTSD. Bostian made a terrible mistake, but still a mistake.  There was no wrong intent, just human error. Something to think about the next time any one of us drives a car while tired. 

Additionally, I would point out that most that suffer from sleep apnea are completely clueless they have it unless a second party observes them while sleeping.   Sleep apnea can manifest itself as a sudden loss of consciousness with memory loss accompanying it.   Really surprised Bostonian has not been tested for sleep apnea, seems like nobody really cares what the cause of the crash was anymore.......they just want a sacrificial lamb.    From the description of the accident it really sounds like Bostonian has sleep apnea.

From the photos I have seen, Bostain doesn't seem to fit the stereotypical profile for sleep apnea - appears to be in his late 30's or early 40's and doesn't appear to be overweight; with both advancing age and overweight stature being prime causes for the condition.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, July 29, 2019 3:51 AM

BaltACD
From the photos I have seen, Bostain doesn't seem to fit the stereotypical profile for sleep apnea - appears to be in his late 30's or early 40's and doesn't appear to be overweight; with both advancing age and overweight stature being prime causes for the condition.

Your joking right?  I just read a post on another website from a PFC in Iraq.   "My Battle Buddy just found me sleep walking just outside our chu (thats what they call the room arrangements over there), what will happen to me now".......lol.   Oh I don't think I would have posted that on the Internet with my real name and rank for any random General to see and freak out about.    Oh well.....typical young Private looking for a quick answer without thinking it through.    At any rate, underscores sleep disorders really can happen at any age and again you need a second party to catch most of them.   The Private has no idea how long this has been going on or when it started, he is very fortunate he hasn't walked into a mortar attack or worse during his nocturnal wanderings.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:06 AM

Sleep apnea and somnambulism are very different disorders. 

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, July 29, 2019 7:58 AM

There was no indication that Bostian was diagnosed with any neurological or cognitive attention disorder nor drug or alcohol abuse.   I suggested some type of  absence seizure (tempero-limbic) might be a factor but it doesn't appear to  have been investigated. 

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Posted by cx500 on Monday, July 29, 2019 11:10 AM

BaltACD

What does it say about our 'humanity' that we, as some elements of society do, feel than any human mistake must be a criminal act?

 

And I would modify that to read "any human mistake, OTHER THAN OUR OWN, must be a criminal act".  The typical attitude after a driving error, is Oops, that could have been expensive, even deadly.  Should overlooking a stop sign result in a collision, the attitude is that it was simply an "accident". 

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Monday, July 29, 2019 8:32 PM

Those persons who maintain that Amtrak should be held greatly responsible seems the proper way to go .  After the MNRR overspeed, Boston overspeed, the PRR overspeed there, the Colonial accident, and others it appears that Amtrak should be held responsible.  Removing previous restrictions by other RRs appears to be a cause of grief for suceeding RRs. RRs need to study why predecessors  placed a restriction before removing same restrictions.  Note NS twice in three weeks at horse shoe.

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