Former Uber driver charged in death of girl, 6, in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - A former driver with the online car service Uber has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of a six-year-old girl who was struck in a San Francisco crosswalk on New Year's Eve, law enforcement said on Tuesday.

Syed Muzaffar, 57, of Union City, a suburb of San Francisco, surrendered to authorities last week and was free on US$50,000 (S$65,000) bail, said a spokesman for the district attorney's office in San Francisco. He was set to be arraigned on Wednesday, the spokesman said.

Muzaffar was making a right turn on a green light in San Francisco on Dec 31, 2013, when he fatally struck Sofia Liu who was in a crosswalk with her mother and four-year-old brother, police said.

Both her mother and brother were hurt but survived, police said.

Muzaffar had been working for Uber at the time of the incident but did not have passengers in his car, authorities said.

He was charged with misdemeanor vehicular homicide because there was no evidence of gross negligence, nor enough evidence to support a felony charge in the case, according to a court official.

It was unclear if Muzaffar had obtained an attorney or how he intended to plead to the charge.

The six-year-old girl's family filed a wrongful death suit against Uber and Muzaffar in January, claiming the driver, a former Uber contractor, had been using his mobile phone to access the Uber app to check on a ride request, according to court papers.

Uber has maintained that the driver was not providing company services or answering a ride request when the accident occurred.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the criminal charge.

The fast-growing company was valued at US$40 billion last week after its latest funding round ahead of an expected initial public offering.

On Monday, Portland sued Uber to stop the service from operating in the Oregon city until it follows local regulations.

The same day, the company was banned from operating in India's capital, New Delhi, after a female passenger accused one of its drivers of rape.