Auburn man identified as third fatality in Amtrak train derailment

An Auburn man has been identified as the third fatality in Monday’s Amtrak train derailment near DuPont, the Pierce County Medical Examiner confirmed Wednesday.

Benjamin Gran, 40, was one of three people killed when the train derailed.

Trains were his passion, said his mother, Linda Daniels.

“The most important thing to Ben was an Amtrak train,” she said, and, so of course he had to be on that inaugural trip.

She followed up in an email: “Ben was my 40-year-old, autistic, but awesomely autistic son … who was an Amtrak fan to the max. He lived, breathed Amtrak since he was 2 years old.”

She said she learned of the train crash when her phone started filling with messages.

“I said, ‘No, no, no.”

Daniels called her son’s cell phone.

“It went to voice mail,” she said.

She said that it wasn’t until 30 hours after the crash that a Washington State Patrol came to her Auburn home, where her son also lived, along with her husband, Lloyd Daniels.

“Thirty hours to locate my son, to extricate his body,” she said. “What brutal torture for a family to go through.”

She said she had hardly slept since, and was distraught about how her son might be remembered.

In 2013, he was a subject of news reports when he pleaded guilty in federal court to possession of child pornography.

Gran was arrested because of his connection to a child pornography website based in The Netherlands. The website was dismantled in 2009 as part of an international law enforcement initiative, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge James Robart sentenced Gran to two years in prison followed by two years of treatment and lifelong community supervision.

The judge found Gran’s acceptance of responsibility and his autism to be significant factors in justifying a light sentence.

“If the statistics are to be believed, pornography is rampant on the internet, and it is too easily available to people who may not even understand what they’re getting into, and that’s the lesson that I hope people will take from Mr. Gran’s situation,” Robart said at Gran’s sentencing in February 2014.

He was released from prison Dec. 31, 2015.

Daniels said her son “had no interest in children.”

“ . . . he made a mistake that he paid dearly for, and because of his optimism, a team of professionals and his best friends who believed in Ben, he turned his life completely around and was living his life in a mature, contributing manner, and was the happiest he had been in his life,” she wrote Wednesday.

Also killed in the train crash were Zack Willhoite, 35, and Jim Hamre, 61. The men were longtime friends and railroad advocates.

News Tribune staff writers Craig Hill and Sean Robinson contributed to this report.

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