A Minneapolis cabdriver was killed early Monday when an unlicensed motorist ran out of gas in his minivan on a southwest metro interstate, triggering a multi-vehicle pileup, authorities said.
The crash, which involved a tanker truck and six other vehicles, occurred shortly after 5 a.m. on westbound Interstate 494 near France Avenue and clogged the freeway through rush hour, according to the State Patrol.
The sequence of events began when a minivan driven by Isidoro Corona, 49, of Minneapolis, ran out of gas in the right lane and came to a stop causing three other vehicles in that lane to crash, the patrol said. There was no shoulder on the road at the crash scene because of road work barriers.
A cab driven by Nadir Ombabi, 57, of Burnsville, slowed down near the scene, swerved into the middle lane, sideswiped another vehicle and then was struck in the driver's side door by a large truck driven by Bruce Hanson, 48, of Onamia, Minn.
Ombabi was killed, and David Paul, 64, of Minneapolis, whose SUV hit Ombabi's cab from behind, was injured.
"In Bloomington, there is probably a gas station every block or two," said patrol Lt. Eric Roeske. "There really is no reason to run out of gas."
The freeway was closed until about 9:15 a.m. as a reconstruction team investigated, Roeske said.
Gamal Eshmawy, who employed Ombabi at Northstar Taxi for the past five years, described his cabbie as "a very, very good driver."
Ombabi was heading to Edina to pick up someone who needed a ride to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and "I don't know what happened after that," Eshmawy said. Ombabi's death was the first driver fatality for his company -- either traffic- or crime-related -- since Eshmawy started the business in 1980, he said.
He said Ombabi studied medicine in his native Sudan and has a sister in Canada and a brother in California.
"He was very, very polite, a very nice person," Eshmawy said. "It's really, really sad."
Corona was driving on a revoked license and was booked into the Hennepin County jail, Roeske said.
A federal immigration official spoke to him briefly after he was booked and an "immigration detainer" was placed on him, meaning federal authorities intend to talk to him further, said Shawn Neudauer, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Twin Cities.
Court records show Corona has been cited at least seven times in Minnesota for driving without a valid license since 2005, along with other traffic violations.
Roeske said the patrol typically doesn't jail someone for driving on a revoked license, but added that Corona was jailed in this case "primarily due to his record and lack of proper ID."
"We wanted him booked to establish positive ID in case he is charged with a more serious crime," he said.
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. Paul Walsh 612-673-4482