Amtrak train driver cleared of all charges related to fatal 2015 derailment
The driver who in 2015 operated an Amtrak Northeast Regional train that derailed, causing the deadliest wreck in the area in almost three decades, was acquitted by a jury on all counts last week.
The derailment left 8 people dead and more than 200 passengers injured. An investigation into the incident found that the Amtrak train was travelling at twice the speed in an area known for its curved tracks. The train driver was distracted by radio transmissions about possible trespassers near the tracks.
As such, the train operator was charged with 8 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 238 counts – equal to the number of passengers on board – of reckless endangerment. The driver faced life in prison.
However, the investigation also found that the derailment could have been avoided by train protection systems such as positive train control, which was operational elsewhere on the so-called Northeast Corridor but not yet at the crash site. That particular section of track also lacked Automatic Train Control. For this reason, the jury was of the opinion that the wreck was an accident as opposed to a crime.
Shortly after the derailment, Amtrak completed the installation of the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES), and accepted responsibility for the tragedy. The railway companied settled with the victims and and their families, paying out 265 million dollars.