This story was originally published in Newsday on Jan. 21, 1994.

The crew on the 5:33 train acted properly and skillfully last month when a gunman opened fire in Garden City, killing six LIRR passengers, a state board determined this week.

"We did not see that there was a procedural problem with how the train crew responded," said Henry Peyrebrune, first deputy commissioner of the state Department of Transportation and an acting chairman of the Public Transportation Safety Board. "There's really nothing for the safety board to consider."

The decision brings to a close the safety board staff's four-week investigation of the Dec. 7 mass murder on the Long Island Rail Road. The board looked at whether the railroad's safety procedures were adequate and whether the engineer and conductor on the train followed those procedures amid that evening's panic.

The crew handled the situation well, Peyrebrune said. The board supported the crew's actions, despite criticism from some passengers that opening of the train's doors was delayed too long after it arrived at Merillon Avenue.

The board's decision was immediately criticized by those on both sides of the dispute. A union leader who had described the investigation as ill-conceived said the board should do more to reassure the public that LIRR trains are run safely. A lawyer for one of the injured passengers who is suing the LIRR's parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said other railroads do more to protect their customers.

The LIRR itself simply said it was pleased its crew was exonerated. "While we have not seen the . . . findings, we certainly agree that we acted properly under the circumstances," spokesman Sam Zambuto said.

Zambuto refused to discuss the railroad's own evaluation of the incident, saying that the criminal investigation was continuing. However, the Nassau police investigation is substantially complete and a county grand jury finished its investigation and issued a 93-count indictment against the alleged gunman, Colin Ferguson.

As far as Jack Rousseau is concerned, the issue is closed. Rousseau, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, said the engineer acted quickly and probably saved lives. "The board should come out and issue praise for the actions of the engineer that night," Rousseau said. "There's no way to plan for a mass murder on an unarmed public."
Rousseau last month complained about the safety board's investigation in a letter to Gov. Mario Cuomo. The board needlessly added to fears about riding trains, he said.

The engineer, who has not been named publicly, halted the train short of its usual stopping point at Merillon Avenue after learning of the shooting because he did not know in which car the shooting had occurred. The train usually stops with the first two cars on an overpass over Nassau Boulevard, which would have prevented passengers in those two cars from escaping.

Instead, the engineer halted the train so that the last two cars of the 12-car train were short of Merillon Avenue's 10-car platform. The engineer then told conductors not to open doors so that passengers waiting to get off the last two cars would not fall off the train onto the electrified third rail. Conductors opened the doors manually, but passengers in the third car, where the gunman was, said the delay was terrifying.

One of those passengers, Brendan Doyle, 25, of New Hyde Park, said in a lawsuit seeking $ 5 million that the delay was dangerous. His lawyer, Brian O'Dwyer of Manhattan, discounted the safety board's decision. "I don't think they have the expertise to determine if security is adequate," he said.

O'Dwyer said most major transportation systems throughout the world, including those in London and Paris, have procedures to handle armed attackers. The LIRR should have had such a procedure, too, he said.

Doyle, who was shot in the back, continues to suffer, O'Dwyer said. Surgeons decided against removing the bullet because it is near the spine, and now an infection is developing, O'Dwyer said. Doyle returned last week to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, O'Dwyer said.

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