A 34-year-old woman was allegedly driving under the influence early Thursday when her car collided with a taxi on a San Francisco highway and killed four people, including herself, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The woman, who was identified by the medical examiner as 34-year-old Emilie Ross, of Hillsborough, was driving the wrong way on Highway 101 shortly after midnight when her Volkswagen collided head-on with the taxi cab, the CHP said.
The collision killed the woman as well as the cab driver, and his two passengers. They have been identified by the medical examiner as 42-year-old Berkant Ahmed of San Mateo, 57-year-old Mary Miller from Chicago, Illinois and 62-year-old man Judson Bergman from Chicago, Illinois.
“It’s really sad. It could happen to any one of us,” said Barry Taranto, a local taxi driver who also sits on the board of the Taxi Workers Alliance, a group that advocates for drivers. “Where it happened, you can’t see cars coming from the other direction because of the hill.”
The cab was heading north toward downtown San Francisco and had just passed Paul Avenue when the collision occurred, according to the CHP.
One of the taxi passengers was ejected and authorities are investigating whether the Volkswagen driver and one of the passengers were wearing seat belts, the CHP said.
Taranto said other San Francisco taxi drivers have been killed in wrong-way collisions, a frequent hazard for those driving during bar hours.
The incident marked the 25th wrong-way driver collision in the Bay Area so far this year, the CHP said. Ten of those collision have resulted in a total of 19 deaths, and 18 of the collisions involved a driving who was impaired.
“This is a problem that is affecting the entire Bay Area,” CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Ernie Sanchez said in a statement. “Rest assured that the California Highway Patrol will continue to proactively patrol and enforce laws pertaining to DUI and will also continue to work closely with our stakeholders, to include Caltrans, in order to identify and improve the potential on and off ramps where motorists are entering freeways traveling in the wrong direction.”
Sanchez also said the CHP is working with law enforcement “to prevent motorists from entering freeways from city streets, while driving in the wrong direction.”
“We are in direct communication with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office to ensure that drivers who choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and hurt or kill others, are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Sanchez said.
The crash initially closed all northbound lanes of the highway but the left lanes reopened by about 4:50 a.m., and all lanes reopened around 7 a.m.
Bay City News contributed to this report.