Prior Driver of Deadly Lexus Also Experienced Jammed Gas Pedal; Dealt With It

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

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.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Wheatridger Wheatridger on Dec 07, 2009

    It's inevitable that some owners will install non-OEM floor mats, or a new mat on top of an old one. I confess to doing both at one tine or another, with no ill effects. Traditionally, this has been one car part/accessory, like wiper blades and stereos, that's not a closed system of manufacturer-only parts. There's really no reason to blame the user here, unless you're one of those corporate fanboys who believes no auto manufacturer is to blame for anything, anytime. I look at the photo above, which I assume is from the car model in question. The pedal hangs so low that it looks like it's hinged at the bottom, not hung from the top. And again I ask-- why?

    • Poltergeist Poltergeist on Dec 07, 2009

      How can someone blame the manufacturer when someone modifies the car with incorrect or aftermarket parts? I see aftermarket floor mats hooked/impeding the travel of the accel. pedal on Hondas all the time, fwiw the picture at the top of the article doesn't look much different than most Honda pedals as far as height from the floor .

  • Vegasgti Vegasgti on Dec 07, 2009

    Many years ago I had an '83 GTI with an after-market cruise control installed by Sears. I'd been using the CC without any problems for more than a year. I'd just gotten off the fwy, had been using the CC, driving down Beach Blvd. in Anaheim, when all of a sudden the pedal went to the floor. Being an un-educated (8th grade) big rig trucker, I panicked! I'd never been advised as to what to do in this kind of a situation. I'd been driving since 1957. However, COMMON SENSE came to the rescue... I hit the clutch, put the tranny in neutral, pulled over to the curb, turned off the ignition, set the handbrake, then I removed the fuse from the CC unit. I went to Sears, told them of the situation, they removed the CC unit & refunded all my money. I've been using Velcro on floormats for years, never a problem!

  • Marty The problem isn't range; it's lack of electricity in multi-unit building parking. All you need is level 1 - a standard 120v wall socket - and if you're plugged in 10 hours overnight you get 280 miles per week or more. That's enough for most folks but you can use public charging to supplement when needed. Installing conduit circuits and outlets is simple and cheap; no charge stations needed.
  • 2manyvettes Tadge was at the Corvette Corral at the Rolex 24 hour sports car race at the end of January 2023. During the Q&A after his remarks someone stood up and told him "I will never buy an electric Corvette." His response? "I will never sell you an electric Corvette." Take that Fwiw.
  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
  • Alan My comment just went into the cloud.I do believe its up to the workers and I also see some simplistic comments against unionisation. Most of these are driven by fear and insecurity, an atypical conservative trait.The US for a so called modern and wealthy country has poor industrial relation practices with little protection for the worker, so maybe unionisation will advance the US to a genuine modern nation that looks after its workers well being, standard of living, health and education.Determining pay is measured using skill level, training level and risk associated with the job. So, you can have a low skilled job with high risk and receive a good pay, or have a job with lots of training and the pay is so-so.Another issue is viability of a business. If you have a hot dog stall and want $5 a dog and people only want to pay $4 you will go broke. This is why imported vehicles are important so people can buy more affordable appliances to drive to and from work.Setting up a union is easier than setting up work conditions and pay.