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Worker Who Smoked Pot in Fatal Amtrak Crash Gets 3 Years for Lies

United Press International

A former Conrail engineer who smoked marijuana shortly before a train accident that killed 16 people was sentenced Friday to three years in prison for lying to federal investigators after the wreck.

U.S. District Judge Norman Ramsey ordered the three-year term to be served consecutive to the five years that Ricky Gates already is serving on state manslaughter charges.

Gates, 33, told the National Transportation Safety Board after the Jan. 4, 1987, wreck that he had not taken drugs before the accident and had performed various safety checks in the locomotive cab before operating the train. But investigators found he tampered with a device in his engine which would have automatically stopped his train at a closed switch.

Marijuana Admission

But after pleading guilty to one count of manslaughter by locomotive in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Gates admitted to smoking a marijuana cigarette with a brakeman just before the accident.

Besides the 16 people killed, more than 175 were injured when Gates allowed his string of three freight locomotives to slide through several trackside stop signals and into the path of an Amtrak passenger train en route to Boston.

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The crash, in rural Chase, Md., remains the deadliest in the 17-year history of Amtrak.

In a plea bargain, three other charges were dismissed.


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