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)

The Long Island Rail Road engineer accused of allowing a passenger to man the controls of a rush-hour train in July has been fired, LIRR officials announced Friday.

Ronald Cabrera, 40, was terminated following a two-month internal disciplinary review conducted by officials that determined the engineer failed to protect passengers and other employees by allowing an "unqualified individual to operate his train," officials said.

Cabrera was suspended without pay soon after the July 2 incident where an LIRR passenger reported seeing the engineer let a passenger, identified as William Kutsch, 47, take control of a New York City-bound Long Island Rail Road train during morning rush-hour.

As a result of a 2-week investigation into the incident, Cabrera and Kutsch were later charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree. In addition, Cabrera was charged with a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.

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, 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.

The two men have pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, they face up to a year in jail.