POLICE: RTD operator accused of causing light-rail train derailment in Aurora facing 9 assault charges


AURORA | Aurora Police on Tuesday proposed levying nine counts of assault against the man who was operating an RTD light rail train when it came off the tracks and injured multiple people last month.

Police have suggested charging Jeremiah Hartzell, 33, with one count of first-degree assault, three counts of second-degree assault and five counts of third-degree assault, according to information posted on the Aurora Police Department blog.

The 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office will now have to decide whether to accept, decline or alter the charges.

There is no timeline regarding when prosecutors may render a decision on the proposed charges, according to Vikki Migoya, spokeswoman for the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Last week, RTD said excessive speed is what caused the R Line light rail car to derail during an early morning snowstorm last month.

Hartzell was operating the train car at about 30 miles per hour when it came off the tracks during a turn near Sable Boulevard and East Exposition Avenue on Jan. 28, RTD announced.

The regional transportation agency instructs operators to make similar turns at about 10 miles per hour, RTD officials said. 

Multiple passengers were tossed across the cabin as the train rounded the turn at about 7:15 a.m.

One woman was ejected from the train and one of her feet was reportedly severed, according to witness reports.

A person transported to the hospital after the incident has told police they are not interested in speaking publicly about their injuries.

Immediately after the derailment, police indicated several people were treated for minor injuries. However, last week RTD said the derailment caused “serious injuries to multiple passengers.”

Pauletta Tolinas, a spokesperson for RTD, said the organization is still waiting to receive an official report detailing the total number of people injured in the incident.

RTD fired Hartzell after initially placing him on administrative leave, according to RTD.

Hartzell began working for RTD in October 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The announcement of the charges Tuesday afternoon concludes the local police investigation into the derailment.

RTD is expected to release additional details on the derailment in the coming weeks.