Taxi owners dispute account of I-90 crash
Contrary to initial reports, an Elgin taxi driver who died last weekend in a fiery crash on the Jane Addams Tollway was not stopped nor backing up, the owners of the taxi fleet and dispatching companies say.
Melba R. Farr, 56, of Elgin, was rear-ended by a sport utility vehicle just after 5 a.m. near Beverly Road in Hoffman Estates. The cab burst into flames, and Farr died at the scene.
Illinois State Police officials said initial reports indicated Farr was stopped or backing up in the far right lane of traffic when the crash took place.
Jaime Hjelm, owner of A Taxicab Leasing Corp. in South Elgin, says GPS tracking data contradicts that.
The data shows that, before the crash, the westbound cab was stopped for about a minute on the side of the road near Route 59, then pulled back into traffic, she said.
The crash occurred at least one-half mile beyond that, said Naomi Hjelm, who owns A#1 Cab Dispatch, and is Jamie Hjelm's sister. The GPS data -- reported every 10 seconds -- shows the cab suddenly decelerating from 63 mph to 11 mph and eventually coming to a stop, Naomi Hjelm said, indicating that's when Farr was hit from behind.
No one knows why Farr pulled over near Route 59, but if she had mechanical problems, she wouldn't have pulled back onto the highway shortly after, especially at that speed, Naomi Hjelm said.
"The pullover has nothing to do with this accident in my eyes. It's too far away," Jamie Hjelm said.
State Police Sgt. Jose De Jesus said Friday he couldn't comment because the investigation is still pending.
The sisters said they contacted state police about their GPS data the day of the crash; officials reviewed it in person Thursday, they said.
Jamie Hjelm said she's shocked at some of the online comments people have made about Farr, and wants to set the record straight.
"It's important for several reasons," she said. "Her family, she's got grandkids and kids. She has been in Elgin her entire life. A lot of people knew her."
Farr's son, Jimmy Roby of Elgin, agreed.
"I feel like she was doing the right thing," he said. "It was just her time go. That's how God designed her to go."
Farr was an outgoing woman who loved being outside and telling stories about her job and life in general, said Roby.
She would have turned 57 Thursday, said Roby, who was planning to take her to her favorite restaurant, The Cheesecake Factory in Schaumburg.
Roby is getting married today, an occasion that will be "bittersweet," he said.
He worried about his mother, who had been a cabdriver for five years and preferred the night shift. She also worked for the now-closed Amex Plating in Elgin for about 10 years, he said. But she wouldn't budge, because she loved being a cabdriver, he said. "She loved that job so much, it was just ridiculous."
Funeral arrangements are pending the release of Farr's body from the Cook County coroner's office, Roby said.
Meanwhile, employees and customers have been contributing donations for Farr's funeral, the sisters said.
"The dispatchers are very broken up over this," Jamie Hjelm said. "It's really heart-wrenching."