San Francisco-based ride service Uber announced Thursday that it had cut ties with a driver involved in a fatal collision with pedestrians on New Year's Eve in The City, denying that the man was working at the time of the incident. However, Syed Muzzafar reportedly told police he was driving around awaiting a fare.
The 57-year-old Union City resident was charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. It’s unclear whether Uber will face punishment.
On Wednesday, the ride service posted on its blog that the accident “did not” — in bold — involve a vehicle or provider doing a trip on its system, urging police to release information about the driver. However, on Thursday, Uber did acknowledge the connection.
“We can confirm that the driver in question was a partner of Uber and that we have deactivated his Uber account,” a blog post by Uber spokesman Andrew Noyes read. “The driver was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident. We again extend our deepest condolences to the family and victims of this tragic accident.”
The accident at Polk and Ellis streets happened about 8 p.m. Tuesday when a driver made a right turn and struck and killed 6-year-old Sophia Liu and injured her 4-year-old brother and 34-year-old mother. The vehicle was a Honda Pilot, said police Sgt. Eric Mahoney, who was at the scene.
Muzzafar was cooperative, Mahoney said, and “claimed he was driving around and his Uber application was turned on and he was waiting for a fare or job close by.”
Paul Marron, an attorney for Marron Lawyers, which is the general counsel for the Taxicab Paratransit Association of California, said the “indifference and callousness” of the blog posts “is appalling.”
Marron claimed, “If nothing more, this death could be emblematic of the California Public Utilities Commission’s indifference to protecting innocent members of the public from inadequately trained drivers and insurance full of loopholes, which allows a company with hundreds of millions of dollars to run away from its responsibility of the death.”
Police Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, said that to his knowledge this is the first Uber-related fatal accident in The City.
The commission, which regulates ride services like Uber, could not provide comment Thursday.