A 71-year-old taxi driver stabbed 10 times in the neck and shoulder during a frenzied attack in Surry Hills managed to hit the duress alarm in his taxi for emergency services, the NSW Taxi Council says.
Council chief Roy Wakelin-King said police had informed the council the driver had hit the alarm, which alerts the taxi radio room to the situation and operators then contact police.
The victim remains in a coma in the intensive care unit of St Vincent's Hospital after he was repeatedly stabbed in Fitzroy Place about 11.30pm on Monday. Police were called to the lane off Crown Street after receiving reports a taxi driver was being assaulted.
They arrived to find the driver slumped over the steering wheel, with large amounts of blood smeared over the driver's door and the vehicle's roof, and pooled on the ground. Neighbours who heard the commotion gave first aid.
Michael Bridle, the fleet manager for Legion Cabs, said the driver was well-respected and worked six nights a week. ''To pick on a guy like this, you've got to be a hero, don't you?'' Mr Bridle said.
He said the police were examining whether the offender was captured on the vehicle's CCTV camera. Mr Wakelin-King said he had been to the hospital to visit the driver, but the man had been undergoing surgery. ''We have had a very savage and vicious attack on a driver, with a very unfortunate outcome,'' he said.
Inspector Bob Allison said a man, thought to be aged between 30 and 40, was seen running from the area towards Crown Street after the stabbing. The man was wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, blue denim shorts and a red hat, and police have appealed for anyone who saw him to come forward.
Paramedics treated the driver at the scene for multiple stab wounds before taking him to St Vincent's Hospital where he underwent surgery and was placed in a coma.
Michael Jools, president of the Australian Taxi Drivers Association, said taxi drivers were due to meet in two weeks to discuss plans to improve driver safety in 2014.
He said that, while taxis were required to have CCTV cameras, they only captured images once every 10 seconds. If a driver pressed a button, that rate could be increased to one image every three seconds. But drivers didn't always have a chance to activate the button if they were under attack, he said.
''An awful lot can happen within 10 seconds. We need proper cameras that continuously take pictures that can be retained for a long period of time,'' Mr Jools said.
Mr Wakelin-King said camera standards for taxis had been reviewed and improved a number of times but the council was ''happy to work with the government and its agencies on a number of standards that will improve passenger and driver safety''.
He said the council had been conducting a trial of pre-paid fares to improve safety on the central coast and Kings Cross and had also been working on concepts such as secure ranks and duress alarms.