Would you let this man drive your train? Sure, why not—as long as he knows how to drive, which this man most certainly does not. Bill Kutsch, a court stenographer in Manhattan and a lifelong resident of Setauket, Long Island, turned himself in to Nassau County police today to face a felony charge of reckless endangerment for allegedly operating a westbound LIRR train on July 2nd. You'll recall that a witness blew the whistle on Kutsch's joyride after he allegedly operated the double-decker diesel train as it traveled 25 miles from Hicksville to Hunters Point Avenue in Queens.
The engineer, Ronald Cabrera, 40, also turned himself in today, and he faces an additional charge of official misconduct. Apparently, Kutsch was a regular rider and was friendly with the LIRR workers. The anonymous witness didn't see Kutsch enter the cab, but became suspicious when the train's horn, which usually emits short bursts, went "long, loud and a little wild... It was like a little kid was driving."
Near Hicksville, the cab's door was opened; Cabrera was allegedly standing "in the middle of the compartment, away from the controls" and Kutsch was out of view, presumably behind the controls. After returning to his seat, Kutsch reportedly "bragged" about operating the train, asking another rider, "How'd I do?" Ultimately, not too good—each man could spend a year in prison if convicted, and Cabrera, a 20-year LIRR employee, faces disciplinary charges up to and including termination.
UPDATE: In announcing the indictments today, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice told reporters that both men committed "an unimaginably reckless act"—particularly because the train did not have an "auto-pilot" feature and required the compression of a "dead man's pedal" to keep moving. This means that "when Cabrera was not at the controls, someone else had to be. Make no mistake that the potential for danger... was incredibly high." Rice also revealed that another LIRR employee noticed Kutsch behind the controls, but assumed he was just a LIRR trainee.
The DA says Kutsch drove the train through seven car crossings, one pedestrian crossing and 24 home signals during his joyride, which at times hit 80 mph! Luckily, he didn't have to react to any emergencies, and an inspection of a locomotive "black box" recorder showed nothing out of the ordinary. Also, according to Newsday, Rice said there was a "relationship" between Kutsch and Cabrera, but she did not elaborate further on the nature of their relationship.