LIRR engineer, passenger face criminal charges

(AP) - A railroad engineer and the passengerhe allegedly let drive a commuter train carrying almost 400 ridersduring rush hour at speeds of up to 80 mph (129 kph) are facingreckless endangerment charges. The engineer has also been chargedwith official misconduct.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced thecharges Wednesday against passenger William Kutsch and engineerRonald Cabrera. The men's actions created "a substantial risk ofserious physical injury" to riders and people in the communitiesthe train passed through, she said.

"It's just unconscionable that you could take that many livesin your hands," she said. "The amount of tragedy that could haveresulted, you can't even quantify it. It's staggering."

Rice's office started investigating after receiving reports thatKutsch, 47, had been in the control cabin of the New YorkCity-bound train on the morning of July 2. Witnesses toldauthorities that Cabrera, 40, was standing in the aisle instead ofdriving the 500-ton diesel-powered, double-decker train.

Rice said that train didn't have an autopilot function andrequired someone to be at the controls in the cabin to keep thetrain from stopping. Another Long Island Rail Road employee who sawCabrera outside the cabin assumed a trainee was driving, she said.Kutsch, a court reporter in New York City, does not have anengineer's license or any training in driving trains.

The reckless endangerment charge is a misdemeanor that carries apenalty of up to a year in jail. Peter Thomas, Kutsch's attorney,said his client was "confident he'll be vindicated."

William Keahon, Cabrera's attorney, declined to comment.

The train passed over multiple car crossings and one pedestriancrossing, and Rice said Kutsch was at the controls for 24 miles(nearly 40 kilometers).

The LIRR said disciplinary proceedings against Cabrera are underway and could result in termination. He was removed from servicethe day of the incident after the commuter rail found out about theallegation.

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