Family's Toyota death-crash call released
Published 03/02/2010 | 05:00
THE final moments of a family killed in a car crash apparently caused by a faulty accelerator on a Toyota vehicle have been made public as lawyers challenge the company's safety record.
Four members of the same family died in a hired Lexus that allegedly accelerated out of control. Mark Saylor (45) an off-duty California highway patrolman, died last August along with his wife Cleofe (45), daughter Mahala (13) and Mrs Saylor's brother Chris Lastrella.
In a 911 emergency call made from the car just before the crash, Mr Lastrella is heard saying: "We're in a Lexus . . . and we're going north on 125 and our accelerator is stuck . . . we're in trouble . . . there's no brakes . . . we're approaching the intersection . . . hold on . . . hold on and pray . . . pray."
Tim Pestotnik, a lawyer acting for Mr Saylor, said the Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, had been loaned to the family while their own car was being repaired.
"The same car had been loaned to another person three days earlier. They brought it back and complained about the accelerator sticking," he said.
He questioned Toyota's claim that it had found a "simple and durable" fix for the problems that have led to thousands of accidents and 19 deaths.
Dealers in the US will start repairs this weekend on 2.3 million cars by inserting a stainless steel bar under the accelerator pedal -- to stop it sticking. The company will also replace pedals in another five million cars where the floor mats could trap the accelerator.
Toyota is trying to limit the dramatic sales slide caused by the recall of millions of its cars. But some lawyers believe the accidents may have been caused by faults unrelated to either the floor mats or the pedal.
They suggest there may be problems with Toyota's electronics, a claim that the carmaker has categorically denied.
The car used by the Saylor family, a 2009 Lexus ES350, was not covered by Toyota's pedal recall but had been linked to the floor-mat problem.
"The sheriff's report in San Diego said the mat was a factor but it was not able to rule out an electronic malfunction," Mr Pestotnik said. (© The Times, London)