Filmmaker Faces Up to Teenage Crime

ByABC News
March 8, 2002, 4:54 PM

March 8 -- When Peter Wade was 15, he and two friends derailed a train, killing its engineer.

Now, 20 years later, he is making his youthful crime part of his first film, and the engineer's family is not happy.

"It's devastating this family all over again," said Jack Duffy, the engineer's son.

Wade, who went on to a $1 million-a-year career on Wall Street, says he is making the film in an attempt to reach out to troubled teenagers.

But Duffy and his siblings don't buy it. He says the film sends "the absolute wrong message" to teenagers: that you can kill someone at 15 and be successful 20 years later.

Kids Looking for Trouble

On the night of July 7, 1982, Wade was hanging out with four friends on a stretch of railroad tracks in Fairlawn, N.J., a small town about half an hour outside New York. Like most nights, he said, they were drinking beer, smoking marijuana and fooling around. "We were kids just always looking for trouble bent on destruction," he says now.

Then someone suggested throwing the railroad switch, and Wade and one of the others agreed. They timed it perfectly, waiting for the train to pass the last signal that would have warned the engineer to stop. Within seconds, five passenger cars going 60 mph flew off the rails toward the wall of a factory.

The train smashed into the factory and broke up, the cars bent and twisted. There were only seven passengers and two crew members on board, all of whom survived with minor injuries. But up at the front, engineer Jack Duffy was crushed to death, his body protecting a 14-year-old boy who had been riding with him in the cab.

Wade fled the scene with his friends, but later learned of Duffy's death on the news. "It was probably one of the sickest moments of my life," he says. "I wanted to just throw up immediately at realizing what I had done."

Police arrested the five teenagers, and Wade and two others were held most responsible for the crash. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and served 22 months of his five-year sentence. Released from prison when he was 20, he went on to college and a Wall Street career that would eventually earn him $1 million a year as a stock analyst.