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Sixth NYC Taxi Driver In Six Months Found Dead Of Apparent Suicide

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A yellow cab driver was found dead this week of an apparent suicide.

It's the sixth cab driver suicide in recent months and now, the union that represents them is demanding change over the alarming trend for workers they say are facing financial despair.

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, the latest loss is 59-year-old Abdul Saleh. Police say his roommate and driving partner discovered him in his Brooklyn apartment on Tuesday dead of an apparent suicide.

The union that represents the city's taxi drivers says Saleh was working 12-hour shifts, struggling financially, and couldn't pay his rent.

"It is heartbreaking to hear that we've lost another of our licensees to suicide. While we may never know why Mr. Saleh made such a tragic decision, it is clear that many of his brother and sister drivers are pain and distress," TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg said in a statement Saturday. "As before, we urge all industry members who are dealing with hardships to reach out to our Driver Protection Unit at 718-391-5539 for assistance in finding financial counseling."

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Last month, an emotional vigil was held for Yu Mein "Kenny" Chow after his body was discovered in the East River. Friends and family gathered at the same place where his taxi was found on the Upper East Side.

"I love my brother, he's very hard working, he loves his family," Chow's brother told CBS2. His family says money wasn't a problem until ride-sharing apps brought more competition.

Kenny eventually fell behind on medallion loan payments, according to his wife. Combine that with her health problems, she says Kenny became depressed and unable to sleep.

"He worried about money, he worried about my life, he worried about our daughter," Li Xian Chow said. "She's not grown up yet, she's still in school."

Because taxi drivers in New York City are required to own them, medallions were once extremely valuable and highly coveted because the demand for cabs was stable. But in the years since Uber and similar companies disrupted the industry, a medallion's value has fallen from as much as $1 million to $200,000. Before disappearing, Chow owed $700,000 on his medallion.

The union also posted a message on social media to those in need, with the number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

A press conference was scheduled for 11 am Monday in front of City Hall.

"We are heartbroken and our thoughts are with the drivers' families during this very difficult time. No financial pressure is worth a life. We urge anyone struggling to call 1-888-NYC-WELL for help," a City Hall spokesperson said Saturday. "This crisis is top of mind for TLC. TLC has made numerous critical regulatory changes to support taxi and for-hire drivers and owners, with additional changes in progress. While we share Rep. Espillat's concern, he is incorrect about what is driving the crisis and how to address it."

If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach out to a local crisis center.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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