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Chicago investigation centers on pedestrian fatality cause

A Chicago taxi driver told people who pulled him to safety that he tried to hit the brakes to prevent a recent car crash he was involved in. Nearby drivers saw the pedestrian accident -- a cab shooting through an intersection, striking a utility pole, flipping multiple times, slamming into a pedestrian and catching fire.

Witnesses notified 911 and raced to the taxi. A cab passenger scrambled from the vehicle while passersby aided the driver. A fire broke out just as the driver was removed from the wreckage. The pedestrian accident victim was a 30-year-old civil engineer who was struck and thrown 15 feet after the cab launched over a curb.

The construction company employee, an MBA student at the University of Chicago, died at the scene. The cab operator was treated and released at Stroger Hospital. The passenger was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious-to-critical condition.

Witnesses reported that what they saw on that early Tuesday morning happened quickly and what they heard sounded like "thunder." One driver was stopped at a traffic light when the taxi passed through and crashed near the intersection.

The 60-year-old taxi operator was a veteran driver. Cook County records confirmed the driver had amassed over 30 tickets for traffic violations throughout his 20-year career, including citations for running stop signs and speeding. None of the Checker Taxi driver's tickets was issued during the last 10 years. The cab driver's wife stated that her husband was recently assigned a new taxi.

The cab driver's repeated statement that he attempted to stop could signal mechanical failure. Police will want to know whether high speed, intoxication or brake failure was involved.

Evidence collection will lead to answers for investigators and personal injury attorney retained for a potential wrongful death lawsuit by the pedestrian's family. A liability suit may also be filed against the driver or the cab company by the injured vehicle passenger.

Source: articles.chicagotribune.com, "Pedestrian dies after cab crashes in intersection," Rosemary R. Sobol, William Lee and Cynthia Dizikes, Aug. 14, 2012

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