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Driver charged with manslaughter in death of 4-year-old girl in San Francisco

Police taped off Fourth and King streets after a car struck a 4-year-old girl near Oracle Park on Aug. 15, 2023. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

A high-profile traffic car crash two months ago in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood in which a 4-year-old girl was killed is now a criminal case before the city’s Superior Court.

The driver, Karen Cartagena, 71, has been charged with vehicular manslaughter by the District Attorney’s Office. Notably, it’s a misdemeanor offense, as prosecutors have determined that there was no indication of malice or gross negligence.

Cartagena has pleaded not guilty. At a hearing on Thursday, the case was postponed to January.

In a statement through her attorney, Cartagena expressed her “deepest regret and condolences” to the girl’s family.

“Mrs. Cartagena is grief-stricken and devastated by this tragic accident,” it read. “No words are adequate to convey her sense of remorse.”

San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Officer Robert Rueca speaks to the press at the scene of a car crash that killed a 4-year-old in a stroller on Aug. 15, 2023. | Source: Justin Katigbak/The Standard

The incident happened on Aug. 15 at about 5 p.m. at Fourth and King streets near the Caltrain station, where the girl was crossing the intersection with her parents. It sparked a public outcry as pedestrian advocates had long considered the intersection to be dangerous and prompted redesign changes.

Sources reveal that the girl was a tourist from South Korea, and her parents have since returned there. Neither San Francisco’s South Korean consulate nor the city’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office have responded to requests for comment on the girl’s identity. However, on some Korean-language online forums, conversations about this case have been posted by people in South Korea who know the family personally.

Han Li can be reached at

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