A Coquitlam woman claims she was held “hostage” by a local taxi driver after she realized she didn’t have payment on her to cover her fare.
It’s a claim the cab company denies, while police say nothing criminal took place.
Carly Musgrave said she took a Bel-Air Taxi cab to work Monday morning because she was running late.
But she ran into trouble when she realized she’d forgotten her wallet at home.
Musgrave told Global News she offered to E-transfer money to the driver, to pay him later that day, or to go into her workplace to get cash from a co-worker.
She said the driver wouldn’t let her out of the vehicle without her phone as collateral, something she said she felt uncomfortable leaving in exchange for a $15 fare.
“So I went to step out of the cab to go into my office to see if someone would lend me cash to pay for my cab, and he got very angry, pulled out of the parking spot,” she said.
“(The) door was open, my foot was on the ground. I could hear my foot scraping across the ground as he was pulling this U-turn.”
Musgrave alleges that the driver then locked the doors and windows of the vehicle, and began driving her to an unknown destination.
“No idea where he was going, he didn’t tell me where he was taking me or anything like that, so I had to call 911 from the cab, because he wouldn’t let me out,” she said.
“I felt like I was held against my will.”
The taxi company tells a very different story.
Bel-Air assistant manager Harry Dhaliwal said he’d spoken to the driver in this case, who remembers the encounter very differently.
The company confirmed that the driver did ask for collateral if Musgrave was to go into her workplace to get cash.
But it claims when she refused, the driver’s solution was to drive Musgrave home to get her wallet. Musgrave denies being told this.
The company says the driver locked the doors because Musgrave was trying to exit the vehicle while in motion, which he believed was unsafe. He claims he did not pull over to let her out because it was a very busy street, with nowhere to pull over safely.
Dhaliwal conceded that it is not Bel-Air’s policy to return someone to their point of departure if they can not pay.
“My recommendation to our drivers is to never make the customer feel unsafe. I don’t think that is what happened in this case,” he said
“Regardless, situations like this are best handled by dispatch.”
The dispute ended with the intervention of the Port Moody police, though both Musgrave and the taxi company also see those circumstances differently.
Musgrave says the taxi came upon a group of officers responding to a traffic accident and waved them down for help from inside the vehicle. She said she’d filed a complaint with police.
The company says the driver sought out police.
Port Moody police confirmed that officers attending to a traffic accident intervened to resolve a fare dispute.
“Long story short of it was that the female passenger did not have correct funds to pay for the fare. An argument ensued between the two and she had wanted to exit the vehicle,” said Const. Jason Maschke.
“However, it was unsafe to do so at that particular location. So that was essentially what the argument was over is that the driver didn’t feel safe.”
Maschke said police separated the driver and passenger, and were working to resolve the issue of the outstanding $22 fare.
He added that the police investigation had determined the incident was a fare dispute, and that “nobody was held hostage or anything like that.”
Musgrave says she relies on Bel-Air several times a week, noting they are the only cab company allowed to pick up where she lives.
She said the incident has only made her more impatient for the arrival of ridesharing in Metro Vancouver.
“I was really traumatized to be perfectly honest. It was really terrifying. I’d never been a situation where I felt that out of control and that vulnerable,” Musgrave said.
“They need to have some kind of accountability for their drivers. They can’t be treating people like that, they can’t put people’s lives at risk for (a taxi fare). That’s not OK.”
–With files from Ted Chernecki