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On-board video no help to taxi crash investigation

Passenger in front seat killed, cabbie hurt when taxi hits tree

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Video captured by surveillance cameras inside a taxi involved in a deadly crash Thursday morning has not been helpful to investigators, police said early Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, Winnipeg Police said it appeared that the cab’s on-board surveillance video had not been turned on, leaving investigators stymied as to what was taking place inside the vehicle.

However, police later corrected that statement, saying the surveillance system was turned on but there are either no images available of the moments leading up to the crash, or the impact of the crash is making it difficult for investigators to retrieve the video.

Winnipeg Police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said there were recorded images in the cab’s system from earlier Thursday morning, but nothing useful that could helpful investigators. Efforts to retrieve additional footage are ongoing, police said.

On Thursday, police said they believed the passenger of a Duffy's cab who was killed when it crashed into a tree was likely trying to rob the driver, who was seriously injured in the crash.

WPS spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said police continue to gather as much information as possible, adding however they’re no further ahead than where they were yesterday.

Witnesses told police they believed the 31-year-old driver was struggling with the 43-year-old passenger just before the cab crashed into a tree on Beverley Street near Portage Avenue.

The passenger died in hospital from his injuries.

The driver spent several hours in surgery Thursday. Michalyshen said police have not yet been able to question him.

Passenger 'known to police'

Michalyshen said police have not been able to confirm the witness accounts. 

"There are some unique circumstances here," Michalyshen said.

"It does appear there are some initial reports that a confrontation may have been occurring in the cab prior to the collision and that may have been a contributing factor," he added.

He confirmed the passenger, who was sitting in the front seat, was "known to police" -- a phrase police use to suggest a criminal past. A source said the passenger was from Norway House.

No obvious weapon has been found among the crash debris, Michalyshen said.

Anyone with information about the incident who hasn't yet talked to investigators is asked to contact police at 204-986-6271.

'Dangerous job'

Gurdip Singh, general manager of Duffy's, said he was aware of the circumstances of the incident.

"Driving a cab is a dangerous job at night," Singh said. "You never really understand what kind of customers you get in your cab at night."

Singh said there's been tremendous speculation about the cause of the crash, including a suggestion the passenger grabbed the steering wheel and turned the car around.

Singh said it's possible the driver was being robbed or the passenger was being chased and hopped in the cab for refuge.

The driver, who has only one leg, has driven for Duffy's for four or five years, Singh said, adding he is well-liked by the other drivers.

"We've been getting a lot of calls from the other drivers asking about him."

Singh said the crash will not change Duffy's policy of allowing passengers to ride up front with the driver.

"That's not going to change," Singh said.

"It's always up to the driver, if he feels comfortable with the passenger sitting in the front," he added.

Singh said the driver's cousin said his condition had been upgraded to stable during surgery.

video player to use on WFP

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 A4


Updated on Friday, September 21, 2012 at 11:50 AM CDT: Updates with no surveillance video available

12:56 PM: Updates police clarification that video exists, but has not been helpful.

1:21 PM: Further clarifies situation with surveillance video.

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