police-light-bar1.jpgInvestigators are continuing to probe the cause of a fiery taxicab crash that killed two passengers in San Francisco on Monday.

The names of the Ohio man and woman killed in the 11 a.m. crash off of Interstate Highway 280 have not yet been released. Both were pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital.

Family of the victims told investigators that the couple had just arrived for a vacation in San Francisco, California Highway Patrol spokesman Shawn Chase said.

They had been on their way from San Francisco International Airport to their hotel in the city when the cab driver smelled smoke north of Candlestick Park, according to Chase.

The driver continued for about two miles, then decided to pull off at the Mariposa Street exit, Chase said.

The cab’s brakes failed as the driver tried to navigate the exit and the vehicle careened into a highway support pillar at about 40 mph and burst into flames, Chase said.

Three sheriff’s deputies driving on the highway witnessed the smoking taxi, followed it off the highway, and ran to pull the victims from the burning wreckage. The driver was able to escape on his own.

The deputies, Zalady Ralleta, Robert Rood and Christopher Sheriff, all of whom had to be treated at a hospital for minor burns and smoke inhalation, are being hailed as heroes.

“If you see a car on fire with people in it, and you go inside to pull them out, that’s a fair definition of heroism,” Sheriff Mike Hennessey said.

“This is one of those instances where they’re called to go above and beyond the call of duty, and they responded magnificently,” he said.

Rood and Ralleta remain at St. Francis Memorial Hospital today.

Hennessey said he visited them last night and they are recovering well.

Chase said today that it may be another week before investigators determine the exact cause of the crash. He said the taxi driver, a 49-year-old Daly City man, has not been arrested.

The cab belonged to the DeSoto Cab Co. and was registered in San Francisco, according to Chase.

The driver checked himself out of San Francisco General Hospital Monday afternoon.

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  • Steve Crowell

    I wonder… did the taxi occupants strike their heads on a taxi partition? Could that have rendered the rear seat occupants unconscious? Could their deaths be attributable to the dangers of head contact with the partition in a collision? Many police officers remained in burning cruisers and died. I believe that the partition risk is responsible. The USDOT needs to make sure that partitions comply with federal safety law.

    Steve Crowell