The son of a Red Deer cab driver who was attacked while he was working the very early hours of Monday said his father suffered many injuries.
“My father thought he was going to die.”
The cabbie, who is in his fifties and has a family including a wife and two grown sons, works for Alberta Gold Taxi. He has been a taxi driver for almost 30 years in Red Deer.
A man who was a passenger in the taxi was arrested soon after the incident and is now facing serious charges including aggravated assault and robbery.
The identity of the cab driver’s son and the cab driver are not public.
The son said that his father has a shattered right femur and he had a five-hour surgery soon after he was taken to the Red Deer Regional Hospital.
The man also will need surgery on his hands because of broken bones and tendon damage, which were caused when he held up his hands to protect himself against blows.
The son said his father is a small man and the alleged attacker is a much larger man.
The son said his father has a concussion, uncontrollable nausea from head trauma and severe bruising all over his body. He had to have three blood transfusions. Despite medication, his father is in a lot of pain, his son said.
John Whittingham, co-owner of Alberta Gold Taxi, said the cabbie is well known within the tight-knit taxi driver community.
“He’s affectionately known by both taxi fleets,” referring to the other company in Red Deer, Associated Cab.
Whittingham said that at about 1 a.m. Monday after the cabbie had picked up two people, he drove them to a house just outside the city and dropped one person off. Subsequently he pushed the emergency alert and locator system that is in all city cabs.
The system alerts dispatchers immediately that a cabbie needs help. All cabs are also equipped with video cameras, Whittingham said.
After the dispatcher confirmed it was not a false alarm, RCMP were called. A Blackfalds RCMP officer located the cabbie outside in the cold wet weather not long after and he was rushed to hospital by ambulance.
After the attack, the suspect allegedly drove away in the cab, which was located unattended by another taxi driver in downtown Red Deer a few hours later.
Whittingham said other cabbies are quite affected by the incident. “Taxi driving is one of the more dangerous jobs out there because they have no way of protection in many ways,” he said.
“We have emergency systems. We have video cameras. We’re working on other items as well.”
Whittingham said he got to the hospital before the ambulance arrived. “I always promised my guys I’ll be there. If I can be there, I will be there.
“He’s going to be down I would say 18 to 24 months.”
Whittingham choked back tears when talking about how the cab driver will manage financially. He said there is a little insurance and cab drivers from both companies and even customers have been dropping off donations.
The cabbie is a driver/owner. Considerable damage was done to the interior of his vehicle.
“He’s alive. That’s what matters,” Whittingham said.
“If you met him you’d get a chuckle out of him. … He’s not scared to give you a smile.”
Whittingham said cab drivers are from all different walks of life. “A lot of them are here because they want to work and they want to make a life. … Cab driving is one of those fields that is easily accessible and allow them to make their money and a contribution to the country.”
They have to have criminal record checks, and the cab companies make checks as well. If they get a bad driver, they are let go and they let the other company and city know as well, he said.
The cab diver’s son said his father drives his mother and grandmother everywhere because neither of them drive.
“It puts us in a hard spot. My dad works for every penny he has.”
“He’s thankful to be alive. He’s surrounded by love. Moments like this show us what an impact he’s had on other people’s lives, how he’s made so many people happy in his life,” he said, also breaking down in tears momentarily.
“We’re just happy that he’s alive. … He’s emotionally traumatized. … He cares about my whole family so much. He’s done that shift for 27 years, the early morning shift his whole life.”