Lyft driver, killed 2 passengers by SUV while fleeing D.C. traffic
A Lyft driver and two friends he had just picked up after a night out in Washington, D.C., were killed after being hit by an SUV while fleeing a traffic stop, according to a report.
Now, families of those killed are demanding answers as to why the SUV — which has racked up more than $12,000 in unpaid traffic tickets — was allowed off the road.
Olvin Torres Velasquez, 23, had just finished his 14-hour shift at a restaurant in Arlington and was telling co-workers how excited he was to watch his native Honduras play soccer that night, The Washington Post reported.
After watching Honduras lose, Velasquez and his longtime friend, Jonathan Cabrera Mendez, went out for a late-night meal in the capital, Velasquez’s relatives told the newspaper.
After a night out, the couple called a Lyft in the early hours of Wednesday morning and were picked up by driver Mohamed Kamara, 42.
As they were heading home on Honda’s Rock Creek Parkway in Kamara, an SUV driver fleeing a traffic stop collided with the Lyft, killing all three in it, according to police.
Police said the two occupants of the car, a man and a woman, were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver’s identity has not been released and no criminal charges have been filed as of Saturday.
The SUV was cited for $12,300 in unpaid traffic tickets — mostly for speeding, according to traffic records obtained by WaPo. The tragic crash sparked a debate about whether D.C. should do more to get repeat offenders off the road.
Torres Velazquez’s cousin, Leslie Torres, told the newspaper that the family was “furious”.
“This guy owes $12,000 in tickets for speeding. Why didn’t the authorities do something?” Torres asked.
D.C. Councilman Charles Allen, who chairs the council’s transportation planning board, told WaPo that the district should consider lowering the threshold for reckless driving as well as paving more cars.
If a cop pulls over a driver and hands out a personal ticket in D.C., the traffic offense can result in a driver’s license point, and if enough points are accumulated, it can result in the loss of the license, according to the Washington Post.
However, if the infractions are caught on a traffic camera as they were with the SUVs involved in the accident, the vehicle can accrue fines that the vehicle owner must pay but can keep their licenses.
If the vehicle has collected two or more unpaid tickets that have not been challenged after 30 days, the district has the authority to remove, tow or seize it, WaPo reported. But this is only if the traffic officer discovers the car parked in a public place.
Allens said the boating and towing teams were severely understaffed last year.
Kamara’s 44-year-old brother-in-law, Mohamed Fofana, said the fatal accident involving such a flagrant traffic offender revealed a “fault in the system”.
“I don’t want another family to go through what we are going through. This should not happen,” he told the newspaper.
Leslie Torres said the grieving family is struggling to pay for the body to be sent to Honduras while also waiting for more details on the investigation.
“If that person had a lot of tickets, that means that person was a danger on the streets and sooner or later that’s going to happen,” Leslie Torres said, tearfully. “Why didn’t they act? We ask ourselves, why?”