Town: Taxi driver in serious accident had history of summons

07/14/2014 2:18 PM |
A county police helicopter prepares to airlift a crash victim near Pulaski Street School in Riverhead Sunday night. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

A county police helicopter prepares to airlift a crash victim near Pulaski Street School in Riverhead Sunday night. (Credit: Jennifer Gustavson)

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 9:30 p.m. with additional information from Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

The 23-year-old taxi driver who crashed into a parked car in Riverhead Sunday night, seriously injuring his passenger, is not registered to operate a taxi in Riverhead Town — a requirement under legislation passed in 2011 — according to town license records.

Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the driver — who worked for the Day and Night Taxi Limo Service — had been issued summons for driving while unregistered four times, with the most recent citation resulting in an arrest for an outstanding Suffolk County criminal mischief warrant.

“I’ve asked the town clerk to revoke Day and Night’s permits,” Mr. Walter said Monday night. “This is ridiculous … At this point, they should not be in business in this town.”

Mr. Walter added that he will instruct police officers to ticket Day and Night taxis operating in Riverhead Town once the company’s license is revoked.

Charles Williams of Riverhead — who was driving a friend in a Day and Night Taxi Limo Service cab —  was issued a traffic violation as an “unlicensed operator” after he crashed on Pulaski Street near Hamilton Avenue about 8:16 p.m., police said.

Police said Mr. Williams was “distracted picking up an item off the floor of the vehicle,” and swerved across street, smashing his cab into a Nissan pickup truck parked on the other side of the road.

The passenger — Tarell Holloway, 26, of Riverhead — suffered a “serious head injury” and was airlifted to Stony Brook University hospital. A hospital spokesperson said Mr. Holloway was treated for his injuries and released from the hospital.

Mr. Williams was not injured in the accident.

Taxi operator records show that the Day and Night taxi service has registered seven different drivers since new regulations on taxi companies were adopted in 2011; the most recent driver was registered on July 2.

Mr. Williams is not registered as a taxi driver with Day and Night taxis or any other registered taxi service, according to the records.

An employee at Day and Night Taxi and Limo service would not speak to reporters. A manager at the company could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Walter said Mr. Williams was mostly recently issued a summons after a town code enforcement officer spotted his taxi parked in a Kmart parking lot. When the town employee approached Mr. Williams, he ran into the Kmart and “hid,” Mr. Walter said.

Police apprehended Mr. Williams and found he had an active bench warrant in Central Islip court, Mr. Walter said.

According to court records, that was the fourth time a warrant had been issued for Mr. Williams’ arrest in the criminal mischief case dating back to 2012. In each prior incident, the warrant was vacant and Mr. Williams was released on his own recognizance.

But after his arrest, Mr. Williams was brought back to court on July 2 and held on $5,000 cash bail. Five days later, Mr. Williams pleaded guilty and was released, with the eight days he served in jail counting as his sentence, a county jail clerk said.

He was due back in court on Sept. 9 to pay a $175 surcharge.

The taxi rules adopted by the Town Board mandate that taxi companies operating in the town must be licensed by the town. The regulations also require taxi drivers to submit to drug tests and physicals to prove the drivers are “physically and mentally fit” to drive a cab, according to the town code.

According to the text of the legislation, the rules were passed “to enhance the peace and security of our citizens in their homes and neighborhoods; to safeguard consumers against fraud and inferior services; and to prevent congestion and unsafe conditions on the streets and highways of the Town.”

First time violators are fined $500, according to the code.

Prior to the requirements, Riverhead Town did not have regulations in place on taxi services. The rules came after a pair of taxi drivers were arrested in Southampton Town for driving under the influence of drugs.

According to town records, eight taxi companies have registered a combined 42 taxi drivers since the rules were adopted in 2011.

Mr. Walter believes a “majority” of the taxi companies are following the law.

“We’ve been pretty aggressive going after everybody in the past year, getting everybody to sign up,” Mr. Walter said.

He also said that the town code can’t address the drivers who come from neighboring towns to drop off their fares in Riverhead.

“The only problem that we have is the jurisdiction of Riverhead is restricted to Riverhead,” Mr. Walter said. “There’s always going to be people out there that we’re not going to be able to touch.”

psquire@timesreview.com