BEAUMONT, Alta. — An Alberta mother wants a taxi driver fired for allegedly abandoning her son on a rural road in extreme cold on New Year's Eve, but the cabbie says the young man insisted on getting out.
Phil Strong, president of the Edmonton Taxi Group and Yellow Cab, said Tuesday that the driver has been suspended while the company looks into the two different versions of what happened.
It's policy that drivers don't drop off passengers when it's unsafe — even if they don't have money, Strong said.
"Secondly, there's something yet to be discovered in this whole complaint," he added. "There's something that isn't right yet. We're trying our best to solve it."
Carson Terpsma, 19, had been celebrating with friends in Edmonton. His mother said he called her shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday to ask for a ride home. Having run out of cash, he told her a cab driver had ordered him out on a back road on the way to Beaumont, a bedroom community south of the city.
The temperature was -37 C with the wind chill.
Wearing just a hat and a hoodie, pants and dress shoes, he walked for about 20 minutes before his mother picked him up. She said his fingers and ears were ice cold and his teeth were chattering as he curled up in a ball in her pickup truck.
"I want to know that this cab driver loses his licence. I want to know that there's repercussions and, if there isn't, then I'll go to the RCMP," said Marci Terpsma.
"That's negligence. He could have died."
Terpsma said her son had been drinking that night but was not drunk or belligerent. She described him as a humble, quiet young man who recently returned from travelling in Australia.
He was ringing in the new year with friends before they took a limo to The Ranch bar in south Edmonton, but they had to wait in line outside and he decided he'd rather go home.
Terpsma said her son gave his coat to his girlfriend so she could have another layer against the cold, and handed the taxi driver all the money he had — $40. Terpsma said the driver told her son it was enough to get him home to Beaumont.
But when the meter hit $40, she said, the driver pulled over on a range road.
"He's taking a shortcut home, stops in the middle of the road and says, 'Your $40 is up. Get out.' Carson being Carson is like, 'Oh, OK.'"
Thinking another driver would stop and offer him a ride, the young man walked about one kilometre, Terpsma said. Five cars passed by before he pulled out his cellphone and called home.
"He said, 'I didn't want to bug you, Mom.'"
Once Terpsma got him home, she cuddled with him to get his body temperature up, she said. She checked his fingers and ears but he didn't have any frostbite.
More than anything, she said, her son is shy of the media attention he's getting and embarrassed that he got out of the cab in the first place.
He knows now that he could have told the cabbie that he had a bank card he could use, or that his mother could pay him the rest of the fare at home.
"It never even crossed his mind."
— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton
The Canadian Press