The third man killed in the deadly Amtrak derailment south of Seattle has been identified as an Auburn child pornography collector and an outspoken proponent of child sexual abuse, whose crimes were first detailed in a 2013 SeattlePI story. The days since the deadly Amtrak derailment between Tacoma and Olympia saw two of the three fatally injured victims, Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite, celebrated for their love of trains. Hamre, 61, and Willhoite, 35, were close friends and volunteers on the board of All Aboard Washington, a rail advocacy organization. Benjamin Gran’s story is more complicated. Gran, a leading member of an online forum dedicated to promoting the sexual abuse of children, served a federal prison term after he was caught with a vast collection of child pornography videos.
The Pierce County coroner’s office said Wednesday that Gran, 40, died of multiple traumatic injuries sustained in Monday’s crash. His death came six years after child pornography investigator came knocking on his apartment door.
Homeland Security agents arrived at Gran’s home in July 2011 after investigation launched in the Netherlands targeting “boylovers” identified him as a member of a pedophile group online. Dutch police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched the investigation – dubbed “Operation Rescue” – in 2009 aimed at bringing down the forum. Investigators had by then arrested 12 suspected child abusers and rescued 100 children.
Investigators described Gran as a close friend of Robert Mikelsons, a Dutch man at the center of the wring and a fellow supporter of the movement to legitimize the sexual abuse of children. Mikelsons, Gran and the other BoyLovers.net forum members asserted molestation and rape were healthy for the children they hurt. Relying on email recovered during the investigation, investigators contend Gran and Mikelsons began discussing their shared interest in child pornography as early as 2004. In those email, Gran admitted to uploading child pornography he produced to the forum. Having secured a search warrant, agents seized electronics from Gran’s Auburn home. They found child pornography was found on a DVD and other items in the home. Court papers that would describe Gran more completely remain sealed. Gran was ultimately sentenced to two years in prison and placed under court supervision for the rest of his life. He was released from federal prison in 2015. Gran died on the inaugural run on a faster train route between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Authorities are investigating the wreck and have said that the train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone, derailing south of Seattle and toppling some cars on Interstate 5 below. Dozens of others were hurt, some seriously. An investigation into the wreck is ongoing.