BALTIMORE — The Conrail engineer whose locomotive caused the fatal Amtrak crash Jan. 4 has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital, indefinitely postponing disciplinary hearings on his actions, attorneys say.
Rick L. Gates of Essex, Md., was admitted to Taylor Manor Hospital in Ellicott City during the last three weeks, said his attorney, Tom Saunders.
Saunders, a public defender appointed to represent Gates on a drunken-driving case, would not say why the 14-year veteran engineer had been admitted to Taylor Manor, a private psychiatric facility that treats depression, drug and alcohol abuse.
Gates, 39, was suspended twice during a 12-year period, according to National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Bill Bush. On Dec. 29, 1974, Gates, then working as a Penn Central fireman, was charged with running a stop signal near Philadelphia. He was suspended without pay for 30 days, Bush said.
On Nov. 11, 1984, Bush said, Gates, then working for Conrail, was suspended for seven days without pay following an argument with a crew dispatcher.
Conrail spokeswoman Pat Linskey said the company would not comment on personnel matters.
As a result of the hospitalization, the United Transportation Union asked for a postponement of two Amtrak hearings on rule violations by Gates and Conrail brakeman Edward Cromwell in the accident that killed 16 people and injured more than 170 near Chase, Md.
The first of the hearings, conducted by Amtrak because the accident happened on Amtrak-owned lines, had been scheduled for last Monday in Baltimore.
Hearing on Drug Rules
One hearing would involve violation of track rules near the Gunpowder River bridge and the other would involve violation of drug rules, according to UTU officials. The hearing involving drug allegations was rescheduled for April 6, while the operating rules charges will be heard on April 13, according to Amtrak spokesman John Jacobson.
Gates and Cromwell both were found to have traces of marijuana in their blood at the time of the accident. Gates has denied using marijuana on the train.
The hearings would determine whether Amtrak could take any action against Gates and Cromwell, who have been suspended without pay since the accident.
Gates also had been scheduled to appear in Baltimore County District Court Wednesday on a drunken-driving charge, but he asked for a jury trial in the case. The request moves the case to Baltimore County Circuit Court, but no date has been set for a trial.
Gates and Cromwell have been subpoenaed by the NTSB Safety Board to appear at a public hearing March 30 in Baltimore. It wasn't known whether either planned to attend.