| -0.4°C Dublin

'Our accelerator's stuck... there's no brakes, pray'- last words of family of four killed in Lexus crash

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 which allegedly accelerated out of control.

Mark Saylor (45) an off-duty California highway patrolman, died last August along with his wife Cleofe (45), and daughter, Mahala (13), and Mrs Saylor's brother Chris Lastrella.

In an 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 that the Lexus -- Toyota's luxury brand which has not been involved in any of the recalls -- 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 allegedly led to thousands of accidents and 19 deaths.

Dealers in the US will start repairs this weekend on 2.3m cars by inserting a stainless steel bar under the accelerator pedal to stop it sticking. The company will also replace pedals in another 5m 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, the only two causes identified by Toyota.

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.

"Toyota has claimed all along that there's no evidence to support a contention that there was an electronic problem, but they also said there were no other problems when they issued the floor-mat recall on November 2 and they have taken that back," he said.

Toyota has admitted to knowing of 26 incidents involving defective pedals in Europe.

It had reports of pedal "stiffening" in the winter of 2008-09 which were treated as a "quality" issue, not a "safety" issue.

Its recall in Europe came last week after a renewed number of incidents this winter.

Toyota has also admitted to a part in the pedal mechanism being potentially faulty. It said the first shipments of parts required for the fix will begin arriving in Europe next week.

hnews@herald.ie


Privacy