PHILADELPHIA (AP) — An Amtrak engineer charged with manslaughter in a deadly high-speed derailment in Philadelphia won’t go on trial until next year because of delays in getting evidence from federal investigators.
A lawyer for Brandon Bostian said neither he nor state prosecutors have been able to get the on-board video recordings from the 2015 crash and other evidence needed to try the case. A Philadelphia judge on Wednesday ordered Bostian to appear in court Dec. 20 so she can set a trial date.
Judge Kathryn S. Lewis said she expects to give lawyers several months from that date to prepare for trial. Lewis had reinstated the reckless endangerment and involuntary manslaughter charges last year after another judge dismissed them.
Eight people were killed and about 200 injured in 2015 when the New York-bound train derailed as it rounded a curve at more than twice the 50 mph (80 kph) speed limit.
Defense lawyer Brian McMonagle said it’s still not clear what caused the train to accelerate. National Transportation Safety Board investigators concluded Bostian lost his bearings while distracted by radio chatter about a nearby train that was struck by a rock. They found no evidence Bostian was impaired or using a cellphone.
Both McMonagle and prosecutors have given the NTSB a list of information they are seeking through public records requests, but said they had gotten little in the months since an NTSB representative promised in court to provide them. They told Lewis the office handling the agency’s Freedom of Information Act requests is overwhelmed with requests, causing delays.
“I am genuinely concerned that the law enforcement agencies that’s prosecuting the case doesn’t have everything they need. I know I don’t have everything I need,” McMonagle said.
However, both he and the prosecutor, Christopher Phillips of the state Attorney General’s Office, said the case has recently been prioritized, and the NTSB is starting to send out photographs, audio recordings and other materials sought.
“We agreed in September to expedite the process of FOIA documents related to this case, and that’s what we’re doing,” said Eric Weiss, an NTSB spokesman, told The Associated Press after the hearing.
Amtrak has taken responsibility for the crash and agreed to pay $265 million to settle civil claims filed by victims and their families. The railroad has since installed positive-train control technology that can automatically slow or stop a speeding train on its track from Boston to Washington.
The state Attorney General’s Office filed charges after the Philadelphia District Attorney declined the case.
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