Richard Prone, 59, is trying to move on from tragedy, nearly a decade after he operated a commuter train that struck and killed 15-year-old Kelly Ann Boyd in 1998.
The engineer who will operate the Greenbush ceremonial train on Tuesday was the driver in a fatal rail accident nine years ago that killed an Abington teen.
Richard Prone, 59, of Duxbury operated a commuter train on the restored Old Colony line that struck and killed Kelly Ann Boyd, 15, an honors student at Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton, at the Pine Street railroad crossing near her home in June 1998.
“That was a very painful period of my life, and I want Tuesday to be a day of celebration,” Prone said.
Prone, a Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad and Amtrak engineer for 38 years, was selected last week to drive the ceremonial train by the general managers of the MBTA and Mass Bay Commuter Rail. He was recommended by the local union that represents locomotive engineers.
“Richie has been an engineer for nearly 40 years and has run Amtrak Acelas and freight trains,” said George Newman of Hingham, a train engineer and chairman of the 180-member local commuter rail division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
Newman said he proposed in March that Prone be given the honor of operating the ceremonial train, along with another engineer assigned to the train under collective bargaining rules.
“The union believes he is deserving of this honor,” Newman said. “He had that tragic accident. Many engineers have accidents, including these fatalities. It never went to trial and was settled. It was a terrible tragedy.”
Investigators found that Boyd had gone around the lowered crossing gates on her bike when the lights were flashing and warning bell was sounding. Prone was charged by the MBTA with speeding and wrongly sounding the train’s warning horns prior to the accident, but the charges were never adjudicated. Prone said Sunday that they were found to be erroneous.
“I will just say that Kelly Boyd was a beautiful little girl, it was a tragic accident, and that MBTA and Mass. Bay Commuter Rail officials had the confidence to name me to operate the ceremonial train on Tuesday,” Prone said.
After nine years of litigation, Prone said the civil case was settled earlier this year and that he was never found guilty of the charges. While he was exceeding the 70 mph speed limit, he said, he was within a 10 mph discretionary range allowed for engineers.
In 1998, Prone was suspended by the MBTA for 15 days, was reinstated, became an engineer for Amtrak and then returned as an engineer for the local commuter rail company.
Prone, who operates a commuter train between Boston’s South Station and Kingston, has fought for years to restore both the Old Colony and Greenbush lines on the South Shore.
Newman touted Prone’s longtime advocacy for restoring Greenbush service as making him a logical choice to drive the ceremonial train.
“(Prone) has been one of the leading advocates to restore the train,” Newman said. “He has written letters for years, going back to the late 1960s.”
Tuesday’s ceremonial train will carry state officials and train supporters from South Station to the Greenbush stop in Scituate and back. The first official paid ride will be Wednesday.
On Saturday, Prone rode the first train that traveled the Greenbush tracks with the public on board as part of a fundraiser for the Scituate Library.
“There were 1,100 people on board, so happy to have the train back after 50 years in mothballs.” Prone said. “People were lining the tracks and there were those in their 90s and young mothers with baby strollers.”
Sue Scheible of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.