Arrested LIRR Engineer and Passenger

LIRR Engineer Ronald Cabrera, left, is charged with allowing passenger William Kutsch to drive a rush hour train on July 2. Both have been arrested on criminal charges. (August 5, 2009)

An East Setauket man who police say operated a New York City-bound Long Island Rail Road train during morning rush hour, was arrested Wednesday following a 2-week investigation into the incident. The train engineer who is accused of allowing the passenger to get behind the controls of the train, was also arrested and charged.

According to officials, passenger William Kutsch, 47, and LIRR engineer Ronald Cabrera, 40, were each charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree. In addition, Cabrera was charged with a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.

During the two-week investigation, MTA police and Nassau prosecutors interviewed several passengers who reported seeing Kutsch enter and exit the single-occupancy cabin of the 6:45 a.m. Port Jefferson branch train heading towards Hunters Point on the morning of July 2, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. Witnesses also recalled seeing Cabrera standing in the aisle of the train instead of being seated on the controls.

The train used on that route, Rice said, has space for only one person behind the controls and does not have an 'autopilot feature.' The investigation revealed that Kutsch was indeed operating the train, since the controls on the train require an operator to be in constant contact with the train's "dead man's pedal" or the brakes will engage, and the train will come to a stop, the District Attorney said.

The train, which was carrying 400 riders at the time, ultimately reached its destination without incident. Officials, however, said it could have ended in disaster and the pair should be held responsible.

"We have built a very strong case," said Rice. "People on the train and in the communities along the tracks deserve to know someone's being held accountable for this unimaginably reckless act."

Authorities are still trying to determine the relationship between the two men in custody. Kutsch is apparently a regular on the LIRR, Rice said.

Kutsch and Cabrera were arraigned Wednesday morning in First District Court in Hempstead.