SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) –
Spartanburg Public Safety Director Tony Fisher said Tuesday that there will be no criminal charges filed in connection with a fatal miniature train crash earlier this year.
Benji Easler, 6, of Gaffney, was killed when the train derailed in March at Cleveland Park. Nearly 30 other people, mostly children, were hurt. Most of the people on board the train were members of Corinth Baptist Church.
The Spartanburg County Coroner’s Office said June 13 its investigation found that excessive speed caused the fatal derailment. Investigators said that the train’s speed was estimated at 20 mph in the curve where it left the tracks overturned into a creek. They said the manual for the train operator said 8 mph is the top speed to be used in the curve.
Fisher said a 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office review of the evidence found that the train’s operator, Matt Conrad, did not act recklessly in connection with the crash.
“There is no indication that Mr. Conrad was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol or that he had any intent to cause the accident,” Fisher said as he read the findings from the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. “Proving mere negligence would not be a problem, but it would be impossible to prove that Mr. Conrad acted with reckless disregard to the safety of his passengers.”
Nathan Ellis, Gaffney fire chief and spokesman for the church, said investigators told him that charges will not be filed in connection with the crash. He said the church’s pastor, whose son was killed in the crash, was told about the decision by the Solicitor’s Office last week.
Ellis said members are fine with the decision.
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