A San Diego Sheriff’s Dept. investigation into the fiery crash of the Lexus that killed four has revealed that the same car experienced similar gas pedal entrapment a few days earlier, with a better outcome. A story in the San Diego Union reports that the prior driver warned the dealer of the problem, but it was not addressed:
Frank Bernard, 61, said he told a receptionist at Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon that the gas pedal on the ES 350 had been “stuck in wide open position.” He reported becoming anxious because the woman did not seem to understand what he meant and he thought it was important.
“I think the mat caused it,” Bernard said in the report, which also quotes him alerting the receptionist: “You need to tell somebody.”
Bernard tells of his experience and how he brought the Lexus to a stop:
Keeping a cooler head and taking the right steps averted disaster:
In the sheriff’s report, Bernard told investigators that he had the car, one in a fleet of loaners belonging to the Lexus dealership, on Aug. 24 and 25. He said that on the second day, while merging onto Interstate 15 from the Poway Road on-ramp, he took his foot off the gas and the car kept accelerating, to 85 mph.
Bernard pressed long and hard on the brakes and was able to pull over and slow down. He put the car into neutral, but the engine continued to race at full speed. After several failed attempts at turning off the engine, he realized the floor mat had jammed the gas pedal.
He slid his foot under the accelerator, dislodged it and had no further problems, the report says.
The key difference seems to be that Bernard undertook one single braking action, before vacuum from the master cylinder reservoir was depleted. Mark Saylor, the driver of the runaway Lexus apparently undertook repeated but incomplete braking maneuvers, and failed to engage neutral.
Saylor family attorney Tim Pestotnik said the results of the sheriff’s investigation and the revelation that the car had a previous problem have devastated the family.
He said they not only have to grapple with losing their loved ones in an instant, but now they learn the crash was avoidable.
The report also cites as a problem the lack of a key for manual shut-off of the engine, and says that the brakes failed because of “overburdened, excessive and prolonged application at high speed” and that the totality of these factors overwhelmed the driver.
“Saylor simply ran out of time and options,” the report concludes.