Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Really, I wonder...Taxi Cab Driver In Stingaree Crash Identified 35 Injured After Taxi Crashes Into Gaslamp Nightclub Stingaree

SAN DIEGO -- An attorney for friends of a woman seriously hurt in Saturday's downtown taxi cab crash told 10News her leg may not have to be amputated despite what was initially reported.

Early Saturday morning, an Emerald cab driver -- who has been identified as 52-year-old Sam Hassan Daly -- plowed into a crowd of people leaving the popular Gaslamp District nightclub Stingaree, injuring 35 -- six critically. Initial reports indicated one woman hurt in the crash had her leg amputated below the knee.

"My people told me who visited her, who are friends of hers, who went to just to see how she is doing, they said, 'King, we talked to her, she seems like she's in good spirits and they saved the leg,'" said Attorney A. King

"The case would be against the driver of the car, the taxi cab, Emerald Cab the company, and our investigation from speaking to an eyewitness present at the scene indicates that his perception of the taxi cab driver was that he was in a state of shock and had glassy eyes, almost as if he fell asleep at the wheel," said Aminpour.

According to traffic court records obtained by 10News, Daly received a traffic ticket just two weeks before Saturday's crash.

Records showed on February 1, Daly's Emerald cab was pulled over for making an unsafe lane change. In September 2010, Daly was ticketed twice by police -- once for rolling through a stop sign in his taxi, and the other for a pedicab violation for picking up a fare in traffic. In 2009, he had two violations in his taxi for impeding traffic and for driving at an unsafe speed.

"This is someone that probably shouldn't have been behind the wheel of a taxi, at least not in this country," said Kevin Thom, who was injured in a crash caused by Daly in 2005. Court documents showed Daly's cab rear-ended a Mustang with 4 people inside. The Mustang was stopped at a red light when it was hit.

Thom, who now lives in Northern California, said over the phone Daly should have learned from his past mistakes.

"Obviously, with all these people getting hit outside of a nightclub, that didn't happen," said Thom.

10News contacted the party in charge of issuing taxi licenses in the county to find out why Daly's license hadn't been pulled. 10News learned each license is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. One or two serious violations could result in the loss of a taxi license.

San Diego police Sgt. Ray Battrick said the driver of the cab later told officers he blacked out moments before the cab drove south on Sixth Street approaching Island Avenue at 1:50 a.m., and drove onto the sidewalk crowded with patrons leaving the Stingaree Nightclub.

Some bystanders attacked the driver, a 40- or 50-year-old man who suffered a broken nose. It was unclear whether his injury was caused during the crash or by the crowd, said San Diego police Lt. Rick O'Hanlon. Bouncers from the nearby nightclub waded into the melee to separate the crowd from the driver.

Video shot by a freelance videographer showed the taxi with a broken windshield parked on the sidewalk in front of the nightclub.

"Basically, people all over … people were just running around screaming," said Paul Jimenez, who was with a group of friends at the club for a bachelor party.

Jimenez said he was outside the club when the taxi came right at him with no warning at all.

"I'm on my phone, my back to the intersection. All of a sudden, I hear 'thump thump thump.' My eyes close, I come to and I'm on the hood," he said.

Police confirmed Daly was the only person in the cab and that he stopped at the stop sign on the corner before driving about 15 miles per hour into the crowd. Jimenez landed on the taxi and suffered only bruising to his legs and hand. He was trained as an EMT and immediately started helping the victims.

"The main thing is triage: who's bleeding ... who's hurt the worst," said Jimenez, who assisted several others who complained about pain after they were hit by the cab. Jimenez said another cab driver passing by gave him a free ride to his sister’s home downtown.

About 55 fire emergency personnel -- including medics and firefighters -- responded to the scene along with 12 ambulance crews, four fire engines, two fire trucks and several police officers.

When emergency crews first arrived, they were told to clear the area because of fears that the taxi might have had explosives inside it. A witness reported seeing a bag with wires coming out of it on the taxi's seats. The bag turned out to be a massager, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Authorities initially reported that 25 people were injured, six of them critically. On Saturday afternoon, O’Hanlon reduced the number of injured to 23. That number has since increased to 35 as of Monday.

None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, but a 42-year-old woman had to have a lower leg amputated, O'Hanlon said on Saturday.

10News spoke to a man who held the injured woman until emergency crews arrived. Several others helped to stop the bleeding.

"We were able to get neckties from some of the people standing by," said Joshua Montana, who was at Stingaree celebrating a friend's birthday. "[Another person] was able to create a tourniquet. Her leg was severed just above the knee. Her leg was completely cut off above the knee."

Montana said he immediately called several of his friends to pray for the young woman’s recovery.

The nightclub also sustained minor damage.

Stingaree majority partner James Brennan issued this statement Saturday morning:

"Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this morning's tragic accident in front of Stingaree nightclub. We are cooperating in every way possible with the San Diego Police Department in their investigation to determine what led to this incident. We refer all questions at this time relating to the accident to the San Diego Police Department."

Police said it did not appear that the driver intentionally drove onto the sidewalk. A witness told police the driver "seemed to be out of it" and just "drifted" off the street.

"The detectives are still reconstructing the accident," said O'Hanlon, who was referring to the investigation.

10News has learned the Metropolitan Transit System Taxicab Advisory Committee oversees more than 1,200 cabs in San Diego. Though MTS inspects the cabs, it does not monitor how many hours drivers are behind the wheel. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, which is the licensing agency, also said they do not oversee the amount of hours cab drivers put in.

"The industry here, comparatively, is heavily regulated especially when you look at the other types of transportation that work in the city of San Diego," said John Scott, who is with the MTS Taxicab Committee.

10News made several calls and could not find any agency that actively regulates cab driver hours. Several cab drivers said a typical shift is about 12 hours but many work more to make ends meet.

Investigators do not believe drugs or alcohol played a role, but they will not comment if fatigue had anything to do with it.

City Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who is the chair of the Taxicab Committee and a former cab driver, told 10News there needs to be discussion about what, if any, changes should be made with the local cab business.

"It does give us an opportunity to focus on the issue of long hours, of high cost of leasing a taxicab and what we can do to somehow reform the industry here," said Emerald.

The cab Daly was driving is registered to Makmar Enterprises and Emerald Cab. They did not return 10News' calls for comment.

Police would not release any more information about Daly's background, but friends who know him said Daly is an Egyptian native. Friends also said Daly worked in Egypt as a dermatologist.

Sammy Nour, who hired Daly years ago as a company limousine driver, said Daly is a hard worker but a very private person.

"I was shocked," said Nour.

Dan Rose, who has been renting a room from Daly since December, told 10News Daly was having financial problems.

"[He] was kind of struggling and strapped for cash here because he wasn't making a lot driving a cab," said Rose. "You can sense he's very depressed and not happy."

10News has learned the cab driver's San Diego home is in foreclosure, which is something Rose wishes he would have known sooner.

At this point, no charges have been filed, but the investigation is ongoing.

If you were at the scene and have pictures, video, or are willing to talk about the crash with 10News, please click here to contact us .