SF visitors die in high-speed crash 

A vacationing couple from Ohio died after a taxi crashed into a concrete support beam and burst into flames on a highway off-ramp Monday.

The taxi driver was seriously injured, while three San Francisco County sheriff’s deputies, who witnessed the incident, were hospitalized.

The crash, reported at 10:57 a.m., happened when a DeSoto taxi driver, chauffeuring the unidentified couple from San Francisco International Airport to the Mark Hopkins hotel, smelled smoke for a second time and exited northbound Interstate 280 at Mariposa Street.

However, the brakes on the Dodge Intrepid weren’t working when he approached a fork at the underpass and the vehicle slammed into the support beam at 40 mph, CHP Officer Shawn Chase said.

The three sheriff’s deputies were trailing in a county car and bus and pulled the two passengers out of the cab. The driver escaped on his own, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Eileen Hirst said.

“All sorts of emergency services were there by the time [the occupants] got out,” Hirst said.

The six victims were taken to hospitals. The woman died at San Francisco General Hospital shortly after arriving, and the man died at 4:20 p.m.

One of the three male sheriff’s deputies was released from St. Francis Memorial Hospital, and the other two were still being treated Monday afternoon. Two of the deputies suffered smoke inhalation.

Alcohol or drugs did not appear to be a factor in the crash, Chase said.

DeSoto rents its vehicles to drivers on a shift-by-shift basis, unlike other companies that sometimes assign specific cars for longer periods to specific drivers, Medallion Holders Association President Carl Macmurdo said.

However, DeSoto would not confirm the statement and declined to comment.

City code requires that cabs are inspected at least once a year with valid registration, brake certification and proof of insurance if they are regular vehicles, and once every six months if they’re spares.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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Kamala Kelkar

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