According to San Francisco Police, Syed Muzzafar, the 57-year-old driver from Union City who was arrested this week on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter, told investigators that he was looking a fare with Uber when he struck 6-year-old Sophia Liu along with her mother and young brother in a Tenderloin crosswalk Tuesday evening.
Uber has been careful to distance itself from Muzzafar, writing on their corporate blog earlier this week that [emphasis theirs] "the tragedy did not involve a vehicle or provider doing a trip on the Uber system." After dodging questions about whether Muzzafar had been an Uber partner, the company updated their statement and thanked law enforcement for "the quick release of information" and went on to confirm that the driver was no longer working with their company:
We can confirm that the driver in question was a partner of Uber and that we have deactivated his Uber account. The driver was not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident. We again extend our deepest condolences to the family and victims of this tragic accident.
Muzzafar was not "doing a trip" — meaning carrying an Uber passenger or on his way to pick up an Uber passenger — at the time of the incident, meaning he was not technically working for Uber at the time. This sets up a fuzzy gray area as the CPUC continues to define how Transportation Network Companies like Uber are regulated in the state.
In this case Uber has removed themselves from a bad PR situation, but the driver sees things differently. According to SFPD Sgt. Eric Mahoney, Muzzafar cooperated with investigators, claiming "he was driving around and his Uber application was turned on and he was waiting for a fare or job close by.”
The Big Taxi folks, meanwhile, were quick to condemn Muzzafar as an unsafe and amateur driver. Paul Marron, a lawyer for the Taxicab Paratransit Association of California told the Examiner he found the "indifference and callousness” of Uber's response to be “appalling" and pointed to the incident as an example that the CPUC was turning a blind eye on loopholes in their regulations. The CPUC, for their part, has not commented.