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Richmond Hill cabbie’s funeral draws 700

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Singh's wife, Lakhwinder Kaur, 39, and two teenage sons-Jaswinder, 15, and Kabal, 17-flew in from India late last week to attend the funeral. Singh, who moved to the United States about 10 years ago, had been planning to bring his family over from India as he waited to get a green card and worked as a taxi driver. Bhairavi Desai, director of the Taxi Workers Alliance, said the Singh family's reunion was a sorrowful one. "This is such a tragic loss in the taxi driver community," she said. "Mr. Singh lived in this country for 10 years, serving this community. It is a tragedy that his family sees him for the first time in 10 years at his funeral. This is not why immigrants come to this city.""It's the most gut-wrenching story you could imagine," said U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) of Singh's death at a news conference at John F. Kennedy Airport the night before the funeral. "I can't imagine the pain being felt by the family."A crowd of about 700 mourners visited Elcock Funeral Home between 9 a.m. and noon on Saturday, to pay their respects to Singh, Funeral Director Arthur Elcock said. A procession began at the Richmond Hill funeral home, passed the Gurdwara Sikh Temple on 118th Street and continued on to the Maspeth Fresh Pond Road Cemetery, where Singh was cremated. More than 100 people, including members of the Richmond Hill Sikh community; taxi union representatives and Councilman John Liu (D- Flushing) as well as family and friends, attended the cremation ceremony. Singh's sons and family members helped Kaur walk as she sobbed into her head scarf, while the large crowd prayed solemnly in Punjabi, the dominant language of Sikhs."Mr. Singh was very religious. He served his family and community well," said Gurprit Singh, a family spokesman, at the news conference as Singh's family arrived from India. "He was feeding the family the past 10 years."Singh was struck by a minivan operated by a suspected drunken driver on Dec. 26 on Rockaway Boulevard in South Ozone Park when the driver ran a red light and struck Singh's Ford Crown Victoria cab, which burst into flames. The driver of the minivan fled the scene on foot. Police later arrested Freddy Romlochan, 27, of Brooklyn on charges of vehicular manslaughter, criminal negligent homicide and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Police also said they found an unloaded semi-automatic handgun in Romlochan's car. He was due to return to court Jan. 11. New York Taxi Workers Alliance members attended the funeral to show support for Singh and to call for equipping Crown Victorias - the official taxi vehicle of New York City- with safety features around the gas tank to prevent the cars from bursting into flame during collisions."What happens to one cab driver happens to us all," said Ronald Blount, a cab driver who traveled from Philadelphia to show support for Singh, though he did not know him. "It affects all of us. We all drive the same car.""The taxi drivers in this city have a tremendously dangerous job and we need to do what we can to protect them," Liu said.On Oct. 2, a Taxi Workers Alliance member was assaulted and still remains in a coma, while on Nov. 22, another city taxi driver was the victim of a hit-and-run accident that left him in a coma, Desai said. The taxi group is calling for stiffer punishments for assaults on cab drivers, she said. Desai said Singh provided service for an estimated 70,000 New Yorkers during his 10 years in the city."He served New Yorkers every day of his life," she said.

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