Hundreds of cabdrivers flashed their hazard lights and beeped their horns Thursday night as they drove from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere to honor one of their own — a sort of funeral procession in a profession that can often prove dangerous in a city like Las Vegas.
The sad scene unfolded after 7 p.m. and was punctuated by intermittent bursts of water from the Bellagio fountain and tourists snapping photos, seemingly without knowledge of what the flashing cab lights commemorated.
Since 1989, dozens of cabdrivers have been hurt, maimed, accosted and killed while on the job.
Michael Boldon, 62, whose cab exploded last week — the result of a car crash Las Vegas police say was triggered by gunfire from a pimp — is the latest driver to pay the ultimate price while behind the wheel.
Boldon’s passenger, Sandra Sutton-Wasmund, 48, of Maple Valley, Wash., also died in the explosion, which happened after Kenneth Cherry Jr., 27, was fatally shot and hit the cab with his Maserati on Feb. 21.
The shooting suspect, Ammar Harris, 26, was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles.
“All of this has been so very, very, very sad,” said Gregory J. Bambie, president of the Professional Drivers Association, formed as a nonprofit in 2006 to help raise money for the families of victims.
“And what’s amazing is how they get right back to work because they have a job to do. Would you just look at all cabdrivers in this town? They just keep plugging away.”
The sort of danger that comes with picking up random people and hauling them around on the Strip shouldn’t be understated, said Bambie, a former taxicab driver from Wyoming who helped start the association.
The Strip is, after all, a mecca for partying, that final destination for 1.5 million visitors daily where open containers are the norm.
Add 3,000 cabs and nine major cab companies into the mix, and there are bound to be confrontations.
Cabdrivers who became victims of violent crime over the years include the following:
■u2002Paul Chiprasart, who was doused in gasoline, then set on fire by an out-of-state criminal in 1989. He died three days later at University Medical Center.
■u2002Sunny Kim was stabbed multiple times in May 2005 by a passenger.
■u2002Wayne Sowers was hit by a stolen taxi near the airport in August 2005 and suffered a broken back.
■u2002Ghulan Rahmani was seriously injured after an intoxicated passenger decided to put him in a headlock after he refused to give him a free ride back to his hotel from a strip club on Industrial Road in January 2010.
■u2002Vongmaniroj Pojarot, who in July 2008 was stabbed in the hand by a nonpaying passenger picked up at the MGM Grand in July 2008.
■u2002Temesgen Solomon survived being robbed, pistol whipped and left for dead on the side of the road in January 2010.
■u2002Tesfaye Arze was fatally gunned down in northeast Las Vegas in March 2011.
The Professional Drivers Association raised thousands of dollars to help the victims and their families in those cases, Bambie said.
The money helped pay medical and funeral bills.
Bambie hopes that some day driving a cab in the city will be safer, that some day all the violence will stop and these kinds of tragedies will become a thing of the past.
Contact reporter Tom Ragan at email@example.com or 702-224-5512.