Zareh Soghikian

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SUSPECT BOOKED IN CAB-PICKUP CRASH Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco Chronicle Oct 11 2005

(10-11) 07:50 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A suspected drunken driver was in custody Monday after he ran a stop sign in San Francisco and crashed into a taxi, killing the cab driver and a passenger.

The suspect, Kevin McGuinness, 43, of San Francisco was booked at County Jail in the Sunday night crash that killed Yellow Cab driver and cabbie activist Zareh Soghikian, 76, of San Francisco and Duke University student Tyler Brown, 21, of Marion, Mass., authorities said.

Fellow cab drivers were stunned by Soghikian's death. Soghikian represented Yellow Cab drivers on the United Taxicab Workers' executive board and had been fighting to get health care benefits for cabbies, friends said.

"Zareh was a fighter," said Ruach Graffis, membership secretary for the taxicab union.

The crash happened about 11:45 p.m. Sunday at Broadway and Webster Street in Pacific Heights. Police say McGuinness, driving a Toyota Tundra pickup, ran a stop sign moments after he had fled from a minor accident about 10 blocks away at Polk and Washington streets.

The Toyota broadsided Soghikian's Ford Crown Victoria cab, police said. A witness in the earlier alleged hit-and-run saw the crash and called police.

Soghikian, a San Francisco cab driver for 25 years, and Brown, who was sitting in the front seat of the cab, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Two other passengers, Brown's half-brother and their friend, Michael Giedgowd, were injured in the crash. Giedgowd suffered a broken leg and a hip fracture and was in stable condition at San Francisco General Hospital. Brown's half-brother suffered cuts and bruises, authorities said.

McGuinness was arrested on two counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of drunken driving causing great bodily injury.

Relatives of McGuinness declined to comment Monday. His sister, who did not want her name used, said, "I'm just so emotionally distraught right now, I can't answer any questions."

Brown had been a double major in biomedical and mechanical engineering at Duke in Durham, N.C. He recently went to help rebuild the tsunami-ravaged Indonesian island of Sumatra, according to the university. In August, he traveled to Banda Aceh to rebuild shrimp hatcheries for residents from the nearby village of Lamnga, officials said.

Brown and other students used palm fronds and fishing nets to design an aerator to increase shrimp yield and limit erosion of the hatcheries' dirt walls.

Brown had been excited about the project, saying, "Seeing the villagers using the aerator, it made me feel good to be physically doing something to help. Up until that point, I hadn't applied my knowledge outside the classroom," according to the university.

Brown's family was unavailable to comment.

Soghikian, who was of Armenian descent and grew up in Egypt, ran his own travel agency, Prestige Travel, from his home on Scott Street in the Marina district, acquaintances said. While off-duty, he enjoyed driving his Mercedes-Benz and tending to his cat, friends said.

Fellow cabbies said Soghikian's death underscored the dangers of driving in the city.

"I realized that this could be anybody," said Thomas George-Williams, 40, a National Cab driver and chairman of the taxi union's board. "We all encounter situations like this every night. You can avoid it by luck, but sometimes you don't stand a chance."

Another cab driver, Barry Taranto, agreed, saying, "You never expect that somebody's going to come barreling through a stop sign on Broadway. There are so many drunk drivers out there, and you have to always anticipate what the other driver is going to do."

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