A Lyft driver and two friends he had just picked up after a night out in Washington D.C. were killed after they were hit by an SUV fleeing a traffic stop, according to a report.
Now, the families of those killed are demanding answers as to why the SUV — which had racked up over $12,000 in unpaid traffic tickets — was even allowed to be out on the road.
Olvin Torres Velasquez, 23, had just gotten off his 14-hour shift at a restaurant in Arlington and was telling his coworkers how excited he was to watch his home country of Honduras play soccer that night, The Washington Post reported.
After watching Honduras lose, Velasquez and his long-time friend, Jonathan Cabrera Mendez, went out for a late-night bite in D.C., Valesquez’s relatives told the newspaper.
After a night out, the pair 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 the Rock Creek Parkway in Kamara’s Honda, an SUV driver fleeing a traffic stop slammed into the Lyft killing all three inside, according to police.
The two occupants of the SUV, a man and a woman, were transported to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries, police said. The identity of the driver has not been released and no criminal charges had been filed as of Saturday.
The SUV had been cited for $12,300 in unpaid traffic violations — most of them for speeding, according to traffic records obtained by WaPo. The tragic crash has sparked a debate whether the capital city should do more to keep repeat offenders off the road.
Leslie Torres, Torres Velasquez’s cousin, told the paper the family is “outraged.”
“This person owed $12,000 in tickets, for speeding. Why haven’t the authorities done something?” Torres asked.
D.C. council member 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 booting more cars.
If a cop pulls over a driver and hands out a ticket in-person in D.C., the traffic offense can result in a driver’s license point and, if enough points are racked up, the loss of a license, according to the Washington Post.
However, if the violations is caught on a traffic camera as they were with the SUV involved in the crash, the vehicle can accumulate fines that the car owner must pay but are able to retain their licenses.
If a vehicle has racked up two or more unpaid tickets that have not been contested after 30 days, the District has the authority to boot, tow or seize them, WaPo reported. But that only happens if a traffic officer spots the vehicle parked in a public place.
The booting and towing team was severely understaffed last year, Allens said.
Mohamed Fofana, Kamara’s 44-year-old brother-in-law, said the deadly crash involving such an flagrant traffic offender reveals “a lapse in the system.”
“I don’t want another family to go through what we are going through. This did not have to happen,” he told the paper.
Leslie Torres said the grieving family is struggling to pay to send the body to Honduras while also waiting more details on the investigation.
“If that person had so many tickets, it meant that person was a danger on the streets and sooner or later this was going to happen,” said Leslie Torres through tears. “Why didn’t they act? We ask ourselves, why?”
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