Why Was He Driving? Cabbie In Deadly Crash Had Long Record

UPDATED 06/28/11 6:03 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The cab driver who crashed into a pedestrian and a building in Streeterville Monday had dozens of prior traffic tickets and was involved in another accident that left someone injured, records show.

Yao Ofori, 71, was driving the Checker cab that hit and killed a man walking down the street at Columbus Drive and Illinois Street Monday morning, then slammed into a parking garage attached to Embassy Suites and the AMC River East movie theater. CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports.

CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman has learned from Illinois Secretary of State records that in August 2007, Ofori was involved in accident in which a woman was injured. He was charged with failure to yield right of way to a pedestrian who was injured, but the ticket was dismissed.

Ofori has received about 30 traffic tickets since 1988, Cook County Circuit Court clerk’s office records show. Of those, he was found guilty on 15 and received supervision and fines ranging from $25 to $50.

Five tickets were for running a red light or stop sign, but two of those were dismissed. Three tickets were for speeding , but one was dismissed.

Despite that driving record, Ofori’s license wasn’t suspended at the time of Monday’s crash. According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, when a traffic case is dismissed against a driver, it doesn’t count against his or her driving record. As for the other cases, if a driver pays a fine or completes court supervision, the information is not normally sent on to the Secretary of State’s office.

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Jesse White said that the office is always looking for ways to make roads safer. The spokesperson pointed out that in 2006, White sponsored legislation that barred drivers from receiving more than two sentences of court supervision within the same 12-month period, in hopes of cutting down on the number of bad drivers on the streets.

In the Monday morning accident, Ofori was cited with driving too fast for conditions and failing to exercise due care for a pedestrian in the roadway.

The accident happened around 8:45 a.m. Monday.

The man killed has been identified as Hector Placencia, address unknown. He had started a new job in May at Riva Restaurant at Navy Pier, where he worked as a dishwasher directly with the executive chef.

Surveillance video from nearby P.J. Clarke’s shows the pedestrian who was walking on the sidewalk had just passed the restaurant when the cab slammed right into him.

Ofori and his female passenger were both extricated from the cab, and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious condition.

This is the second deadly accident that has happened at the intersection of Columbus and Illinois in the past couple of months.

On May 3, graphic artist Justyna Palka, 23, was struck and killed by a tour bus as she crossed the street at the intersection. The coach bus was making a turn from Illinois Street onto Columbus Drive when it hit Palka.

The driver of the coach bus, David Soto, 47, was later charged with DUI after police found he had cocaine in his system at the time. He was also hit with unrelated sex charges for allegedly molesting two pre-teen girls.

  • Centurion

    So now that he has killed someone….I wonder if the city will simply DISMISS another ticket.

  • Richard M. Daley

    Cabbies are stupid, All they want to do is speed and drive filthy cabs.

  • Bill S.

    I’m not really the ex-mayor LOL

    • Im juss sayin'

      REALLY?!?!? Wow, ya coulda fooled me….

  • Citizen for a Livable Chicago

    John, I agree. The problem: Mayor Daley dismantled the Chicago Police Department and because the city is approximately 3000 cops short, one of the inforcement areas that suffers is traffic enforcement. The city could generate a lot of reverune by ticketing the people that do not license their vehicle properly, all the people that do not stop for stop signs, and so on. The police do not have time to write tickets because thay are usually 5 to 6 assignments deep during their shift. Traffic enforcement and alot of other things have taken a back seat.

    • Maria D Lagunas

      I agree

  • Haji

    My cab smells of urine. I lkie it like that.

  • edward c. stengel

    There was no reason to suspend or revoke this man’s license. He got 30 tickers over a 23 year period, or just about 1 1/3 ticket per year. For someone driving 10 to 12 hours a day, 6 days per week, that’s not a lot of tickets. In addition to that, it never mentioned any serious violations, like DUI, reckless driving, or driving on a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

  • nancy

    Yes the City of Chicago is to blame for not collecting on all ths driver’s tickets, but at the same time according to the Secretary of State’s Office he injured a woman in August 2007 and with all the other tickets issued on top of that why didn’t the Secretary of State pull his license? There is plenty of blame to go around on this one. He needs his license yanked permanently and Checker Cab needs to do a better job on who they let buy medallions to drive their cabs.

    • Roberta Waker

      Put the Secretary of State in jail like George Ryan for not doing his job and causing deaths, Right? Actually, the Secretary of State needs to see that the driving laws are enforced, the police need to ticket those breaking the laws, and the Judges need to fine them heavily, take away their driver’s licenses or send them to jail. No reason to suspend his license because he drives too much? Are you kidding me? Thats all the more reason to suspend his license BECAUSE he drives so much.

  • Chivi

    The City needs the money that cabbies pay in order to be able to drive. It’s all about the money.

  • bjk

    How insentive of CBS web staff not to realize that one of the ads running prior to the cab accident video shows a taxi AND accident.

  • Del

    the cab company should be sued for tens of millions of dollars for keeping this a*sshole and probably tons of other horrible cab drivers employed with them

  • Larry

    First of all, Citizen’s whiny rant about a shortage of cops is irrelevant. I see cops targeting cabbies regularly for tickets for almost no reason. I know for a fact that cops seek to ticket cabbies for almost nothing. I’ve heard it straight from the source. So drop the whiny “not enough cops” rant.

    Cabs are all about money and nothing about safety. The do have to have regular safety inspections of the cabs, but a lot of them probably shouldn’t be out on the road.

    As to cabbies, many of these guys should not be driving cabs, including the guy involved here. There could be a negligent entrustment issue here. I’ve had countless cabbies who were aggressive, rude, argumentative and didn’t follow the law. And when you’re out on the road, you’ll notice they drive extremely aggressively, probably because they don’t own the cab or care about it and can just get another one if anything happens to it.

    All it takes is one incident with one cabbie, and a person will hate all cabbies for it. That’s just the way it is. They just are so rarely held accountable, so it just keeps happening over and over again.

    • Roberta Waker

      Well said, Larry. The police and judges need to do something and the Secretary of State needs better recordkeeping to get people like this off the road. He’s on the road too many hours and it’s just a matter of time before he kills someone. Who will go to jail then?

      • Roberta Waker

        Sorry, it should be BEFORE he kills someone else. Who will go to jail? Will it be the cabdriver or will they “dismiss” his tickets again? Our system needs a complete overhaul for allowing someone like this on the road.

  • Len Small

    I was once in a cab in Omaha and the driver had several “bills” spread across his dashboard. I asked him if that was “smart?” He then procedded to show me his pistola. He said, “this is smarter.” This was before Neb. had concealed carry. I called the Omaha police when I go to the airport and I witnessed him from the terminal cuffed and spread eagle against his Happy Cab.

  • Maria D Lagunas

    I think The Companies which this Taxi Drivers work should have more stricter policies. and should be terminated

  • Get Cab Drivers Like This Off Our Streets !

    The City of Chicago Should Remove The Cab Driver If He Gets 2 Speeding Tickets and He Can Not Drive a Cab in Chicago Anymore !

    There are too Many Chicago Cabs Jumping Curds and Hitting Building & Killing Pedestrians on the Sidewalks in the City of Chicago !

    Fix This / Get Two Speeding Tickets You Can’t Drive a Cab in Chicago !

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