The Sikes Aftermath: Lead Balloon Boy Going Down

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

A few days ago, James Sikes and his runaway Prius was all over news. Until we mentioned that something is fishy. Sikes’ driving skills were put in question. Stories about a wife swapping website emerged. Stories about bankruptcy. Stories about an unpaid lease on the Prius. And sundry other stories. Quickly, Sikes turned into Balloon Boy 2.0

Michael Fumento, director of the Independent Journalism Project, went on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox Business and said: “It appears that everybody on planet earth suspected that there was something horribly wrong with this picture – except for the national media. The real hoax wasn’t James Sikes, it was in fact our press.”

On his own blog, Fumento fumed at the press: “To test his claim that he actually reached down and tried to pull the accelerator up but it wouldn’t budge I did something that apparently occurred to no other reporter in the country. I actually got in a 2008 Prius to see if it was physically possible to reach that far. I couldn’t get anywhere close. An orangutan could, but whatever Mr. Sikes is, that doesn’t seem to describe him.”

The real blame is on the press, says Fumento: “The red flags were popping up right from the beginning and the media ignored them because they wanted to ignore them. There’s a Toyota feeding frenzy going on and reporters just want their chunk.”

Well, now they dropped the video, and it looks like their editors sic them on Sikes.

The Wall Street Journal [sub] reports that “the investigation of the vehicle, carried out jointly by safety officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Toyota engineers, didn’t find signs the brakes had been applied at full force at high speeds over a sustained period of time, the three people familiar with the investigation said.

The brakes were discolored and showed wear, but the pattern of friction suggested the driver had intermittently applied moderate pressure on the brakes, these people said, adding the investigation didn’t find indicators of the heavy pressure described by Mr. Sikes.”

As we vividly remember, ABC had led the “let’s burn Toyota on the stake” faction with the Gilbert video that subsequently turned out as a fake. Now, as the tide turns against Sikes, ABC goes with the flow: “A memo drafted for a congressional panel says the Toyota Prius involved in a California runaway car incident performed exactly as it is designed to in tests trying to replicate the situation…The memo says that each time the technician floored the gas pedal and hit the brake at the same time, the car shut off as it is designed to do.” ABC got ahold of Patty Sikes who complained that “the couple’s lives have been turned upside down and they are getting death threats.”

According to CBS News “a congressional spokesman said the finding casts doubt on the driver’s story.”

Looks like Sikes won’t testify.

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  • Sandy A Sandy A on Mar 15, 2010

    Today the WSJ reported that: "Test on Prius is inconclusive." The system worked when engineers performed a test drive of Sikes's vehicle, the agency said. Engineers also noted that "there was very little left of the car's brakes," the agency said. The inboard front brake pads were completely gone and the outboard pads were down to about two millimeters to 2.5 millimeters, it said, and the brake rotors were damaged. "We would caution people that our work continues and that we may never know exactly what happened with this car," the agency said.

  • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Mar 18, 2010

    I read today that they may recall 1.2 million corollas and matrix's from years 05-07 for stalling problems due to failing modules.

  • MaintenanceCosts This is a Volvo EX90 with swoopier styling and less interior room. I'm really not sure I understand the target audience.
  • Stuki Moi If government officials, and voters, could, like, read and, like, count and, like, stuff: They'd take the opportunity to replace fixed license numbers, with random publicly available keys derived from a non-public private key known only to them and the vehicle's owner. The plate's displayed number would be undecipherable to every slimeball out there with a plate reader who is selling people's whereabouts and movements, since it would change every day/hour/minute. Yet any cop with a proper warrant and a plate scanner, could decipher it just as easily as today.
  • Dukeisduke Is this the one that doesn't have a back window? Like a commercial van?
  • MaintenanceCosts My rant seems to have disappeared, but suffice it to say I agree with 28 that this is a vehicle about which EVERYTHING is wrong.
  • SCE to AUX Welcome to the most complicated vehicle you can buy, with shocking depreciation built into every one.And that tail - oh, my.