Driver in fatal SF cab crash avoids homicide charges 

California Highway Patrol investigators have decided not to recommend a DeSoto cabbie be charged with homicide six months after a fiery crash killed a couple visiting The City from Cincinnati.

Faegh Behbahani was driving the Dodge Intrepid taxi when it caught fire before careening into a freeway pillar at 40 mph June 14. He said the crash occurred because the brakes on the vehicle failed. Behbahani smelled smoke almost four minutes prior to the crash, according to CHP Lt. Dane Lobb, who has been investigating the case.

CHP officers initially said since Behbahani ignored the smoke and continued to drive, he could have been charged with murder.

However, the CHP is submitting a report to the District Attorney’s Office this week concluding that evidence did not support a homicide charge.

“In order for there to be second-degree [murder], you have to have malice. And we didn’t see there was sufficient evidence to support malice,” Lobb said.

He said “there’s nothing that indicates he’s a problem driver,” and Behbahani has a clean driving record. The CHP investigation determined Behbahani, who has turned 50 since the crash, was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol and probably was not speeding.

Behbahani, on his 10th fare of the day, picked up Dennis and Karen Marshall from San Francisco International Airport and smelled the smoke about 8 miles into the trip. He continued through a 3.7-mile stretch before the car sparked with flames and crashed while exiting Interstate 280 at Mariposa Street at 11 a.m. June 14, according to CHP reports.

Three sheriff’s deputies trailing in a county-owned car and van witnessed the crash and stopped to extinguish the flames and rescue the couple. The deputies were treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.

The Marshalls died at San Francisco General Hospital within hours of the crash. The Medical Examiner’s Office said the couple died due to multiple blunt-force injuries from the accident.

While the medical examiner classified the couple’s death as a homicide, Lobb said the CHP has decided to let the district attorney decide how to charge the case after talking to witnesses.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity,” he said. “It could be manslaughter. It could be whatever criminal charges the DA sees fit.”

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Kamala Kelkar

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