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Prosecution rests in trial of Amtrak engineer charged over deadly 2015 derailment

Brandon Bostian stands accused of causing catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment stemming from the incident, which killed eight people and sent nearly 200 others to the hospital.

  • Laura Benshoff/WHYY
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train derailment, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The Amtrak train, headed to New York City, derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least six people and injuring dozens of others. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Patrick Semansky / AP

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a deadly train derailment, Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia. The Amtrak train, headed to New York City, derailed and crashed in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, killing at least six people and injuring dozens of others. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

On the night of May 12, 2015, Charles Gildersleeve rushed to the scene of the Amtrak 188 derailment in Philadelphia, searching for his younger brother, Robert, Jr.

Two days later, the 45-year-old father of two was among the last two victims of that deadly incident to be identified. That delay added to the “frustration” his family felt, Gildersleeve testified in court on Wednesday.

In the aftermath of the derailment, victims and their families fought to have criminal charges brought against Brandon Bostian, the Amtrak engineer on duty, after then-District Attorney Seth Williams declined to press charges. They finally succeeded this year, and on Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office rested its case.

Bostian stands accused of causing catastrophe, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment stemming from the incident, which killed eight people and sent nearly 200 others to the hospital.

In opening arguments, senior deputy attorney general Christopher Phillips said Bostian had “one job … control the speed of the train.”

As his train entered an S-curve near Frankford Junction, its speed exceeded 100 mph when the limit was 50 mph, a federal investigation showed.

Failing to heed that limit, despite his ample experience and time to prepare before running that route, amounted to proof of a crime, argued Phillips.

More than a dozen witnesses for the prosecution testified to Bostian’s training and his actions that night. They also introduced transcripts of Bostian’s interviews with investigators, to show what he remembered of the events leading up to the derailment.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, those witnesses included: FBI special agent Brian Julien, Philadelphia police officer Eric McClendon; designated supervisor of locomotive engineers Keith Strobel, who trained Bostian for Amtrak; Amtrak Assistant Superintendent of Terminal Operations, Jonathan Hines; former Amtrak police detective Thomas McCormick; and Charles Gildersleeve.

Julien was involved in the federal investigation into Bostian, and walked the jury through two interviews the engineer gave, as well as his phone records from the night of the derailment.

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