Nightmare Scenario As Taxi Brakes Fail, Passenger Dies in Fiery Crash

One dead in fiery crash
A female taxi passenger is dead after the brakes on her cab failed and the vehicle slammed into a concrete highway support at 40 miles per hour this morning, according to the California Highway Patrol (our friends at SFist had the scoop as well as some pictures earlier today).

It's too early for authorities to lay blame on anyone for the accident, but the cab company with which the taxi was registered has a good industry reputation for vehicle maintenance, a cab driver told SF Weekly. Add that to the fact that this sort of disaster is unheard of, and Monday's fatality is nothing more than a tragic and horrible accident.

The woman has not been identified by authorities; the Medical Examiner is "almost positive" who she is but has yet to notify her family, officials there said on Monday.

The cab driver was headed northbound on Interstate 280 when he smelled smoke, according to police. The driver hit the brakes but they failed, and he guided the vehicle onto the Mariposa Street off-ramp in an attempt to stop the vehicle when the taxicab hit a concrete highway support at 40 miles per hour, according to police.

Nearby sheriff's deputies managed to pull the woman and another passenger from the vehicle before it burst into flames. The driver and the two passengers were transported to SF General Hospital where the woman was pronounced dead, police said.

The vehicle in question was a cab registered with the DeSoto color scheme, the CHP said.

DeSoto general manager Cindy Ward did not immediately return a telephone call from SF Weekly seeking comment, but the cab company is probably not at fault: Companies perform routine inspections on their vehicles and have economic incentives beyond avoiding wrongful death lawsuits in ensuring their vehicles last long and prosper, according to cab driver Ed Healy, who maintains a blog about driving cab.

"I can't tell you much about DeSoto, but I can tell you they have a good reputation as a responsible company," he told SF Weekly. Whether the cab in question was sloppily maintained is anyone's guess at this point, but Ward and her coworkers at DeSoto are known to be "responsible people" within the cab industry, Healy said.

We'll update back if we hear anything else. The medical examiner expects to release the victim's name first thing tomorrow morning.

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