EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area Lyft driver describes terrifying attack by passenger while going 70mph

"He put his arms (around) my front and my breast. Like a hug, but so strong, so strong," said Zelia.

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Thursday, October 6, 2022
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A Lyft driver is sharing the terrifying minutes she faced when a passenger attacked her mid-ride on the freeway in the Bay Area.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- A Lyft driver is sharing the terrifying minutes she faced when a passenger attacked her mid-ride on the freeway.

ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena spoke to the woman who is hoping the rideshare company places new safety measures for drivers, especially women.

On Monday at 10 p.m., Zelia Silva received a Lyft request for a trip from Campbell to San Jose.

When she arrived, expecting to see the woman who requested the ride, a man got into the vehicle instead. Ten minutes into the trip, the male passenger violently grabbed her from behind. She was driving 70 miles an hour.

Still shaken, Zelia described losing control of the vehicle. Her dash camera recorded the moment she began to swerve, hoping to merge into the shoulder for safety.

"He put his arms (around) my front and my breast. Like a hug, but so strong, so strong," said Zelia.

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What she heard next paralyzed her.

"Okay you are not going to die right now," said the passenger.

Zelia said her life flashed before her eyes. Her boyfriend helped translated from Portuguese to English.

"When she heard the guy's voice she couldn't process any words," said Tarcisio Monteiro, Zelia's boyfriend.

Seconds later, Zelia says she knew she had to fight back.

"I jumped to exit the car. But he tried to grab me," said Zelia.

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Zelia can be seen running towards moving traffic on the freeway hoping to flag down a driver.

"For me is better die in the freeway and not fight the man," said Zelia.

After hearing that Zelia was ready to die on the freeway, her boyfriend broke down.

"I cannot see the videos and hear the screaming in the video. It's so hard," said Tarcisio Monteiro.

Zelia's last resort was to jump in front of a moving vehicle. One of them stopped. Now, she's thanking God and that stranger.

"Thank you so much for stopping in the freeway. Thanks so much for opening the door. Thank you," said Zelia.

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That driver called 911 and drove Zelia to a gas station, and waited for police to arrive. CHP said Zelia made the right call pulling to the shoulder.

"Rideshare driver had been assaulted by one of her passengers. Our officers responded to the scene and got a statement from the individual, from the driver and we are currently following up on that," said, officer Ross Lee with California Highway Patrol.

The unidentified passenger drove off in Zelia's car. He exited into city streets, ran multiple red lights and ultimately crashed against a pole.

Zelia says she is speaking out in hopes that ridesharing companies protect drivers and passenger. Especially, women.

"I have friends that drive. I drive. I need to speak. I need to speak," said Zelia and added, "You want to drive to protect other women? Yes. It's very important. Yes. So many women have kids. I have my baby kitten."

Lyft said in part: "Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and the incident described is terrifying. We have been in touch with the driver to offer our support, have permanently removed the rider account from the Lyft community, and stand ready to assist law enforcement."

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