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News 8 Exclusive: Cabbie talks about Stingaree crash, apologizes to victims

News 8 Exclusive: Cabbie talks about Stingaree crash, apologizes to victims

By David Gotfredson

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) -- The cab driver who apparently blacked out behind the wheel and crashed into a sidewalk full of pedestrians early Saturday morning says he remains traumatized by the incident.

Sam Daly, 52, spoke to News 8 on Friday from his home on Belford St. in East Clairemont Mesa, apologizing to his victims and asking for forgiveness.

"I'm deeply sorry for what has happened," Daly told News 8. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to do something like this."

Daly said he has been taking anti-depressant medications for years, but recently changed to a new prescription about a week before the collision that injured more than two dozen people outside the Stingaree nightclub in the Gaslamp Quarter.

The most seriously injured was 45-year-old Dominique Gambale, who nearly lost her lower leg when it was crushed between the taxi and a nightclub wall. Gambale has undergone a series of reconstructive surgeries at UCSD Medical Center. Doctors remain cautiously optimistic that Gambale will walk again after years of physical therapy.

Daly was released from the hospital Tuesday evening. He said he does not own a television and claimed he was unaware that Gambale was seriously injured.

"I know forgiveness in this way, in this time for something like that is not easy; but I hope she forgives me because I cannot live with something like that. And, I always (will) pray for her," Daly said.

The Emerald Cab driver speculated he may have fainted right before the crash, though Daly was unable to say exactly how long he blacked out. The next thing he remembered was being pulled from the cab and beaten by an angry mob. He said he suffered a broken nose and facial injuries as a result of the beating, not the collision.

"All I remember is somebody tried to take me from the window. They were taking me from the door," Daly said. "Somebody punched me in my nose. My nose was broken. I was gasping, gasping, blood coming from my nose. I (thought) they were leaving me to die. It's not a way to treat a human being."

The cabbie said he had been working 10 to 16 hour shifts in recent months to support his family in Egypt, pay mounting bills, and hold on to his house, which according to San Diego County records is in mortgage default.

"I was very tired, you know; very, very tired," Daly recalled. "I was trying to make money. I wanted to save money to send to my family. I (am) the one who is responsible for helping them."

In Egypt, Daly said he supports an elderly mother, a sister recovering from breast cancer and a brother who is paralyzed. He said he moved to the United States in 2001 and became a U.S. citizen in 2005.

The Sheriff's department, which issues licenses to San Diego county taxi drivers, announced Friday that Daly's taxi permit has been suspended as a result of the crash.

A spokesperson for the department issued a statement saying that under the County's Uniform Licensing Procedure, "when in the opinion of the issuing officer, there is a clear and immediate threat to the safety and protection of the public... the issuing officer may suspend or revoke the license without a hearing."

Daly has the right to appeal the suspension but said he is done with cab driving.

"I don't want to drive a taxi anymore," he said. "This is enough, this trauma."

Daly is considering returning to Egypt, but a search warrant inventory obtained by News 8 indicated Daly's passport was confiscated by law enforcement officers serving the warrant on his home the same day as the crash. Daly was hospitalized at the time.

A News 8 review of Daly's driving record showed he has received eight traffic citations since 2004. In addition, a civil suit claims Daly crashed his cab in 2005 injuring four people in Pacific Beach. No criminal charges were filed in that 2005 crash.

The cabbie told News 8 that traffic tickets are more common with drivers who work extended hours behind the wheel.

Daly currently has no points on his driving record, according the Department of Motor Vehicles. Three of his citations were dismissed after Daly attended traffic school, one was reduced in a plea bargain to a non-moving violation, and three are still pending in court, records show.

No criminal charges have been filed in Saturday's Gaslamp Quarter slow-speed collision and police said it could be weeks before the investigation is complete.

As for the pedestrians who pulled Daly from his cab and allegedly attacked him on the street, Daly said he understands their anger.

"I forgive them," he said. "When you forgive, God will forgive you and this is the most important thing."

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