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