By on February 14, 2018

2000 BMW X5

Earlier this week, the driver of a 2003 BMW X5 called 911 to inform the operator that he was speeding and wouldn’t be able to stop. The motorist, one Joseph Cooper, explained to the operator “my gas pedal is stuck” as his SUV barreled down a Florida interstate at around 100 miles an hour. Officers were dispatched to the highly mobile scene on Monday at 1:00 p.m. and ultimately decided to halt Cooper’s progress using stop sticks.

BMW is calling bullshit on his runaway vehicle claims, and we’re inclined to agree. There were loads of things the driver could have done to stop the vehicle but, based on portions of his call with 911, he was either unwilling or incapable of performing those tasks. 

According to ABC News, a BMW spokesperson categorized the scenario as “implausible,” adding that the company “would be happy to work with the Florida State Police to investigate the cause of this incident.”

We wouldn’t be surprised if Cooper had simply placed the vehicle on cruise control and simply couldn’t figure out how to stop it. His call with emergency dispatch is beyond infuriating and brings into doubt his ability to function behind the wheel. Early in the call, which occurred around 12:46 in the afternoon, the operator suggest he place the car into neutral. Cooper responds with “Yeah but, Ma’am, I’m in a BMW and, if I swing that over, it’s going to drop down a gear. I really don’t want that to happen. It could spin me out.”

She then asks if he has tried the emergency brake. “Ma’am, I’m not pulling that at no hundred miles an hour,” he responded. “Ma’m, I’m sorry.”

While it’s unknown if Cooper even bothered to attempt using the foot brake, his emergency/parking brake could have at least slowed him down some. While yanking upward on the handbrake with all of his might probably would have been a bad idea, a more gradual application could have helped him bleed off some of that momentum. That’s especially true if he’d bothered to kill the engine — which seems like the most logical thing to do in a runaway scenario.

A lot of drivers don’t realize this, but there is a little nub or button near the steering wheel that can be used to turn off or, in some cases, start a vehicle’s engine. It’s called an ignition and is essential in the continued operation of a motor. I don’t want to get too technical here, but that motor is actually what provides forward locomotion in most instances. Without it, a vehicle will ultimately stop moving.

Alright, so we’ve established that Joseph Cooper is either an imbecile, in a perfect storm of technological mishaps, or is terrified that stopping the vehicle might damage his SUV. He’s also just confessed to almost hitting someone and still has to be stopped. What’s the safest manner in which this can be done?

According to Florida authorities, blowing out the vehicle’s tires as it travelled in excess of 95 mph was the clear solution. However, the police report actually states that Cooper swerved to avoid the first set of stop sticks. Fortunately, a second attempt took out his two right tires — slowing him to around 60 mph. A third attempt got the rest of them.

From there, Cooper’s X5 continued on until there was no rubber left. “The vehicle was traveling on all 4 rims with no tire,” the highway patrol report read.

Officers were eventually able to pit the BMW on the side of the road after it had traveled roughly 40 miles as a runaway vehicle. Lt. Alvaro Feola of the Florida Highway Patrol said Cooper made the right choices in a dangerous situation. “He did call 911, he wore a seat belt, he kept the dispatch aware of the mile markers,” Feola told ABC News.

In our estimation, that’s about all Cooper did that was right. The manufacturer also weighed in, carefully indicating this was likely a instance of extreme driver error and not a technical fault.

From BMW:

“All BMW vehicles, including the 2003 X5 described in this incident, employ an electronic accelerator pedal which uses software logic to override the accelerator whenever the brake pedal is pressed while driving. This fail-safe software means that if the vehicle detects that both pedals are depressed, the on-board electronics will reduce engine power so that the driver may stop safely.

Furthermore, the accelerator pedal in BMW vehicles is hinged at the bottom, and mounts to the floor. Therefore an object or floor mat cannot slide under the accelerator pedal and jam it. Original BMW floor mats are custom-fitted for each vehicle, and are installed with anchors to keep them properly located in the front footwells of each vehicle.

The vehicle could also have been stopped by two additional means: By placing the transmission in neutral and coasting to a stop and/or by shutting off the ignition without removing the key. This is accomplished by turning the key counterclockwise. The engine would have shut off and the driver could have safely coasted the vehicle to a stop.”

We know it’s hard to know how to respond calmly in an emergency situation, but that last line is universally applicable. If you find yourself in a runaway situation, please turn on your hazards and shut down your engine. We’re sure Mr. Cooper mistakenly assumed he’d do some kind of catastrophic damage to the motor by doing so. But, when the alternative is having your tires blown out until you’re moving slow enough for cops to gently nudge you off the road, he probably wishes he had opted for the former.

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73 Comments on “Idiot BMW Driver Calls 911 to Tell Police He Can’t Stop Speeding...”

  • avatar

    He had plenty of opportunity to react, yet over the course of his whole escapade he chose to do precisely nothing but call the police, even after being given precise instructions.

    Brake over throttle strategies have been around for some time now. They have interrupted a few of my hooing attempts including losing a braket race in a minivan due to a poor reaction time from brake torquing too long.

  • avatar

    Hello, 911? There is a bomb in my car and it will blow if I drop below 45mph…

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    1) Drive down freeway at 100+ mph, claiming to have a mechanical problem
    2) Get nationwide media attention
    3) Sue BMW
    4) Settle out of court for a nice chunk of $$$

    • 0 avatar

      He was speeding if the cruise control was set at that speed. So he should be arrested.

    • 0 avatar

      If this lame extortion attempt fails, we’ll probably read about him having to be dragged off an airplane in a few months.

    • 0 avatar

      @Matt Foley

      You forgot:

      5) Win!

    • 0 avatar

      Its a 2003 there is a black box in there that will exonerate BMW. If the Toyota verdict and subsequent events have shown me anything it is that the public is no longer believing people who claim “the accelerator stuck”.

      I know the evidence in court has shown that the only “runaway” non-braking scenarios that could be proven were at 5 mph or below due to Prius braking software quirks.

      There has never been a “stuck pedal” smoking gun provided and people are tired of that defense.

  • avatar

    Over Macho Grande? I don’t think I’ll ever be over Macho Grande.

  • avatar
    No Nickname Required

    If it was any other vehicle, I would say 99.9% chance it was operator error. But since it was a 15 year old BMW, im going to back that down to a 95% chance of operator error.

  • avatar

    I was 16, with less than a year’s driving experience, when the butterfly valve in the car’s carb jammed wide open and sent me speeding down the road. At 16 I had more sense than this guy. I applied the brakes and got to a section of road where I could pull off on and turned the ignition off off. Nobody was hurt and the car wasn’t damaged.

    This guy is a flat out moron.

    • 0 avatar

      Happened to me at 17. Stepped on the brakes hard (4 wheel drums!!) and got it to stop, then remembered the tranny and put it in N. I don’t see how anyone in this situation doesn’t just crush the brake pedal, it’s just what you do when you want to stop.

  • avatar

    “I’ve tried nothing and it hasn’t worked.”

  • avatar

    It would appear he’s unaware the car came equipped from the factory with brakes.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe he was worried about warping his rotors or some other lame excuse. Hopefully more details will come out because this whole story doesn’t make much sense.

      I can understand the fear of using the (misnamed) e-brake. As mentioned below they would have either: overheated quickly or done pretty much nothing at 100 MPH. Most people assume that the ebrake immediately stops the tires resulting in a spin. But they are just normal brakes (w/pads) that are (usually) cable controlled thus bypassing the hydraulic system that allows the calipers to clamp down. Most e-brakes are only designed to hold the car in place after its parked on a hill, thus the idea that they are “emergency brakes” is nonsense. The only emergency they help with is a loss of brake fluid or pressure.

      Killing the engine isn’t a great idea because you lose the brake booster and most people don’t apply enough pressure to the brakes as is for fear of locking up. Of course this is silly because we have ABS now. As someone who drives (and instructs) on HPDE track days believe me… you can not brake “too hard” the computer will sort it out and you’ll be fine – just mash that pedal as if you were trying to push it thru the firewall.

      • 0 avatar

        “Killing the engine isn’t a great idea because you lose the brake booster ”

        With the throttle open, you already don’t have engine vacuum. Press the brakes a few times (using the stored vacuum in the booster) and you’re in the same situation. This is likely not what happened, as BMW states that the car has brake-throttle override. However, if the throttle body was mechanically stuck open then this could be the case.

        • 0 avatar

          You loose brake booster perhaps but who cares – the car will begin decelerating. Coast out the 100 mph with no brakes at all – you will stop.

          This guy is an idiot and the judge ought to jerk his license for a minimum of five years and require an extensive driving school at his cost.

          Let him rely on taxis or the other ride services to get around until that time.

          He is a threat lives in Florida. In TN the local police shot and killed a guy for refusing to stop with a suspended license. Note he never got above 50 mph.

          • 0 avatar

            I’m not saying he should be hurt by anyone – but that he lose his driving privileges for an extended period of time and there be a high skills test requirement for him to regain his license.

  • avatar

    Given the state of humanity, I’m more than willing to paint this guy with paint brush dipped in a can labeled “moron.”

    Another article I read about this incident mentioned he was using his “flashers and a green strobe light” whatever the hell that means. I’d like some explanation on that one.

    As the driver of a BMW (and eagerly counting down the months until my lease is over), I will say last weekend I had to drive on icy roads and much appreciated the manual mode popping back and forth between 1st and 2nd gear. Until, that is, I needed it in neutral and couldn’t remember how for 20 seconds or so. Infernal paddle shifter!

    I miss the sweet column shifter in my old Grand Marquis, frankly.

  • avatar

    1) using the emergency brake at 100 mph doesn’t seem that great an idea. It depends on how it’s implemented, whether it’s a drum or disc, etc, but it’s quite possible that it would glaze them over/overheat the pads/rotors in short order. It might get you down to 60 mph for 30 seconds (doubtful, probably more like 95 mph), but then you either let off again (since you’re not going to jump at 60 mph), or they start smoking.. I would say it would help as a SECONDARY or TERTIARY assist, when you’ve managed to slow the car to 10-20 mph or something. Even then, with, for example, the rear drum-style pad Subaru uses for their emergency brakes (they work for holding the car when parked), even with just a touch of throttle, I can overpower them. Probably the same for an X5. I would be very surprised to find ANY regular car with an emergency brake capable of making enough of a difference at 100 mph that you should try it first.

    2) He actually raised a good question, IMHO. On my manumatic, I have the following settings: P R N D (and over to the side, D+ for sport/manual). However, many older automatics have P R N 2 3 D (or similar, like P R N 1 2 D). The question is: if you shift at 100 mph from D to 3, to 2 (or 1), to N (even quickly), would 2/1 try to engage? If you got a TON of engine braking on the rear end (i.e. trying to get down to 50), even for 1 second, would you fishtail? I have to admit – not 100% sure. My gut says, if you do it fast enough, it won’t matter, but my brain isn’t sure enough to say it wouldn’t cause a problem under ANY circumstances. Maybe BMW has a gear lockout above certain vehicle/engine speeds, so it might not even let him shift into N? Not sure how good stability control was in 2003, or even if it was standard, enough to handle that situation.

    3) I can’t imagine he didn’t at least try the regular brakes – and if he did, that should have disengaged cruise control. So either cruise was broken (if it was the culprit), or there really was something else jammed/stuck. I can’t think of any other “normal” operation that would cause an unstoppable 100 mph.

    My initial reaction was to jump all over him, like everyone else is doing, but.. With a bit of additional thinking, I don’t find him quite as irrational as everyone is saying.

    I think my most likely attempt would be (assuming something really was stuck): hit the brakes as hard as I can (assuming I have no reason to doubt my ABS system) and at the same time, slam from D to N. And say every prayer I know.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “The question is: if you shift at 100 mph from D to 3, to 2 (or 1), to N (even quickly), would 2/1 try to engage? ”

      Probably not. Most modern automatic cars have an interlock that makes sure the car is below a certain speed before engaging another gear, or park. When you shift into another gear at speed, your car will actually be between gears (in neutral) until the shafts slow down enough. So, no matter where Neutral is located, it likely won’t be an issue.

      And in a manual transmission, it’s going to be especially difficult because the gears will be spinning too quickly to mesh.

      • 0 avatar
        qwerty shrdlu

        Anyone who can get up to 100 mph with a manual transmission already knows how to find the clutch. In fact, the onetime I did have a stuck throttle cable I went for the clutch first, not the stick.

        I will say that turning off the ignition at high speeds is a bit scary- if you turn the key too far and lock the steering wheel then you really need to stay calm and turn the key back promptly but not roughly. Otherwise…

        • 0 avatar

          “- if you turn the key too far and lock the steering wheel…”

          Then you’ve got a damaged steering column. It doesn’t lock the wheel until you remove the key.

          • 0 avatar

            I have never driven a car where it waits for you to remove the key to lock the wheel. This BMW may be different, it is a BMW and those you have to move the turn signal stalk the direction it is indicating to turn it off.

          • 0 avatar

            Either way you have to put the thing in Park before it’ll release the key, locking the steering wheel.

            It’s hard to believe some of the ignorance around here sometimes, regarding these matters. Turn the car OFF in a runaway situation, yeah as a last resort, but turn it back ON again in case it was an electronic glitch that resets to normal.

      • 0 avatar

        Push the clutch in – there – neutral.

        I have never been in an automatic that prevented the driver from shifting from D to neutral or R to neutral.

        I have done this in a newer vehicle at highway speeds. Is it misfiring? neutral, rev the engine a little, no, back into drive.

        Some of the 80s and older autos would shift to any gear including reverse at any speed. My sister did that in our parents old ’84 Chevy Citation and the motor immediately stalled. No damage, no noises.

        She slipped it back into neutral, started it and continued without ever stopping. She said she got the turn signals and column shifter mixed up. I hollered at her to stop but it was too late.

    • 0 avatar

      ” many older automatics have P R N 2 3 D ”
      Nope, D is next to N, then 3 then 2. His beemer could be different, but most cars have Drive next neutral.

    • 0 avatar

      “However, many older automatics have P R N 2 3 D (or similar, like P R N 1 2 D).”

      Show me one car that has the transmission gears arranged like that.

      Go ahead, I’ll wait.

      • 0 avatar

        Early Ford C4 automatics could be had with a P R N Drive1 Drive2 Low arrangement. Drive 1 would give you 2nd and 3rd gear only (for driving in snow), Drive 2 would give the normal 1, 2, 3 progression and Low was first gear only. So on many early model Mustangs for example, the normal drive position is two detents past neutral. However in the greater context of this conversation this means nothing as shifting from Drive 2, to Drive 1 and then to neutral would not cause the transmission to jump to a lower gear.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah, my bad.. In my defense, it’s been QUITE a while since I drove a non-shiftable auto with the setup I claimed to remember, other than a day or two here or there with a rental. And even most of those were shiftable nowadays.. The only regular use of one of those autos was our ’79 Dodge, which I think we sold in ’90 or ’91, and I got my license end of ’87. And I always preferred the Honda Civic Wagon 5-speed and took it whenever possible, until I got my own (manual) cars..

    • 0 avatar

      He could have thrown it into Park. At any speed much above single digits the pawl won’t be able to drop in quickly enough to lock up the wheels and you hear an awful ratcheting noise. It will disengage gear though. My 88 Dodge stalled randomly at 70 mph and I had to kick it into neutral to restart but in my haste it blew through N, R, and into P, at 60+ now, before I realized what happened. This was also with a hydraulic-control 3-speed non-lockup automatic that would not have prevented gear engagement due to vehicle speed. No problems.

    • 0 avatar

      my ancient TH-350 3 speed automatic in my 77 Chevy is smart enough to not downshift if it thinks it’ll exceed 4500 rpm based on govenor speeds from the driveshat. I have shoved it into manual first gear coming down passes above 45-50mph and it stays in second till you drop below 40mph, at which point it can lock the rear wheels momentarily under hard braking. 3-2 occurs at 70mph, though you can upshift it at crazy speeds (1-2 can go all the way to 60 before the engine hits 5,500 rpm and 2-3 can go all the way to 100, before shifting at 5,000) thanks to the silly 2.56 axle ratio.

      using the 11×2 drums would at that speeds for emergency braking would cause the rear brakes to just catch fire. the 11″ discs and drums are more than capable of overriding the engine output though using the service brakes.

    • 0 avatar

      “Mama, I am going to show you how to drive an au-to-mo-bile.”
      “Vinten, now, what’s Perndel?”
      “Yes, Vinten, what’s Perndel?”
      “I don’t know what you’re saying, Mama.”
      “It says it right here on the shifter, Vinten. Perndel.”

  • avatar

    So how did the cops stop the running engine? Did they reach in and turn it off once they had stopped him?

  • avatar

    15 year age limit reached…

    Owner income under $35,000 detected…

    BMW self-destruct mode activated.

  • avatar

    Nothing to see here. Maybe 1/2 of American drivers would know exactly what to do if caught in a “runaway car” situation, including professional drivers, cops, etc. 20% would figure it out and the remaining are just like this guy.

  • avatar

    “According to Florida authorities, blowing out the vehicle’s tires as it travelled in excess of 95 mph was the clear solution.”


    So are you just ignorant as to how stop sticks work or are you making this more dramatic than it needs to be?

    • 0 avatar

      I found that statement a little off base as well. Maybe it’s because I’m not a “complete” moron, but having my tires blown out by the highway patrol at 100 mph so they can pit me seems like far and away the least desirable solution short of bailing out of the runaway vehicle. I fail to see how that is less dangerous than any of the other solutions posed. It may be the clear solution to bring an idiot to a halt though, I suppose I can get behind that assertion.

  • avatar

    Apart from calling the po po – how is this different than any other BMW driver?

  • avatar

    How come nobody’s blamed iDrive yet?

  • avatar

    If only there was some kind of mechanical way to disengage the engine from the wheels without any sort of computer interaction at any speed. It could be installed as a 3rd pedal to the left of the brake. Unintended acceleration would be impossible (and theft by anyone under 25) and the cops could get back to more important things like staking out the donut shop.

    • 0 avatar

      Sounds great to. Let me do the shifting as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Uh, they have already invented it – its called the “clutch”. This is why I only buy 3-pedal cars with mechanical handbrakes.

      • 0 avatar

        Finding a vehicle with a manual transmission and a clutch could become more difficult in the future as there is little demand for it in today’s American society.

        Where in the past the automatic transmission would cost a premium over a manual, the future may see that reversed where a manual transmission may come with a premium in price over the standard automatic or CVT. Times are a’changin’.

        I used to favor my pickup trucks with a manual, until I bought my first brand new 1988 Silverado 350 ExtCab LongBed with the THM350.

        Ain’t ever goin’ back to a manual.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I seem to remember — in connection with discussion about another runaway car driven by an off-duty highway patrol cop — that while standing on the brakes will bring even the most powerful car to a stop, pumping the brakes off and on could eventually heat the brakes to the point of their being ineffective and unable to override the power of the engine at WOT and bring the car to a stop. Perhaps our panicked driver did just that. Applied the brakes for 4 or 5 seconds, then released them when the car didn’t seem to be slowing down much, then applied them again and so on.

    This scenario assumes, of course, that there was some sort of malfunction in the drive by wire system controlling the throttle.

    Switching off the engine ends the power assist to the steering immediately, potentially a far more serious problem than losing brake assist.

    If I’m not mistaken, in North America at least, the P-R-N-D (etc.) sequence of automatic transmission control is legally mandated. That said, fear of overshooting “N” and sliding the selector into “R” with attendant imagined consequences of rear wheel lockup, etc. might deter a lot of folks from doing that at speed. I’m sure modern computer controlled auto boxes would “refuse” that shift to “R” to protect the transmission, just as they “refuse” operator requested downshifts to a gear selection that would over-rev the engine at the existing vehicle speed. Whether the 15-year old BMW control system had that kind of logic, I don’t know.

    So, I’m not ready to call this guy a moron yet. Dealing with this kind of malfunction (assuming it was a malfunction) is not something that you practice or find in the owner’s manual.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re confused and wrong about a few things. This shows why we need better driver training about the most fundamental things, just a hair above stab-n-steer.

      All it takes is a forward bump on the shifter to go into Neutral from Drive, there’s no lock/gate for this action, and that’s for a very good reason. It won’t go any further (Reverse/Park) unless you’re pulling the shifter towards you at the same time or a squeeze of the thumb button, also for a very good reason.

      You use it several time a day and never pause to look at it’s most basic function.

      In a runaway WOT scenario you get one chance only to stand on the brakes, and don’t let off until you’re stopped, since engines produce no vacuum at WOT.

      You don’t need much, if any “steering assist” at higher speeds, but wait for a straightaway, stand on the brakes using your body like a bumper-jack against the bottom of the steering wheel.

      Yeah this guy is a moron, but if it makes him feel any better, he has a lot of company.

  • avatar
    Null Set

    “Idiot BMW driver” – redundant, yes?

  • avatar

    Ah, Florida man… This one’s a fraud for sure.

  • avatar

    Next thing you know he’ll be sharing his “BMW ownership experience” with JD Powers/Consumer Reports…

  • avatar

    Around 100 MPH??? That’s about the average highway speed of a CUV in the Chicago area. I wouldn’t even blink if I saw that (I’d just get in their way going 85 and try to annoy them as long as possible, haha). This guy must have been on something, or he doesn’t drive very often and just felt so fast!

  • avatar

    When someone accidentally drives off a cliff, do you think they keep pumping the brakes?

  • avatar


    Man oh man, why did it have to be a BMW? I wish people would stop validating the BMW-haters with their absolute stupidity behind the wheel. I’m out there actually using my turn signals (ask me why that is special where I live), never cutting people off, and rev matching downshifts even when at legal speeds just for fun, but to John Q. Public there is no difference between that kid and me, because BMW. :(

  • avatar

    In a “perfect world”, stab-n-steer would be all we need to know, so we can move on to more important things, like selfies and Twitter. But many of us are rolling the dice on that, as shown by the dead CHP officer dialing 911 when his own car was reluctant to stop (right away).

  • avatar

    I encoruage everyone that hasn’t done this: go for a drive in your car. At some speed above zero push the shifter from drive into neutral. DO NOT press the trigger on the shifter.

    Car will simply pop from drive into neutral with no drama and it will be locked out / prevented from going into reverse.

    Now spread the world. There is no reason that after 50+ years with standardized shifters that the average person doesn’t know this.

    People should be required to get more training before they are allowed to get a license. When I was a kid all we had to do was pass a written test and drive around the driver’s license center. Now in 2018 all they require is the same test and a mandatory learner’s permit. No proof of driving.

    • 0 avatar

      This was mentioned in a previous comment. But this isn’t so. On my mother-in-law’s 2010 Lincoln MKZ there is a detent that requires pushing the shifter button to get from D to N. I think this is Ford’s standard setup. Most other cars are as you say, no full detent between N and D – just a bit of resistance, but locked out from going to R. I don’t like this Ford “feature” because once you push the button you can easily overshoot neutral and end up in reverse or park. I am unusual in my driving habits because I do shift from D to N and back while moving in low friction (snow, ice, dirt, gravel) conditions. I also use the handbrake as a dynamic control to induce oversteer, the best cure for understeer. I far prefer the manual TX for many reasons, but having the clutch to disengage the drive is possibly the best part.

  • avatar

    Just wait till this moron sees what it costs to replace four BMW run-flat tires . . .

  • avatar

    I’m loving the timing of this.

    Currently driving a BMW, doing about 85mph and executing a lot of lane changes. Thankfully I did a track day, so I’ve definitely got the skills to post and drive.

    Somehow I hit some lever or something, and there’s this blinking light and ticking noise that won’t seem to go away.

    Help! I’m so very scared.

  • avatar

    I boiled my brake fluid in a track session and managed to safely complete the lap and get back to the pit with little more than engine braking and careful but purposeful application of the emergency brake. A track is a relatively controlled and safe environment to figure out what to do when things go awry, and driving a stick made me feel more in control of the car than if I was in an auto.

    Maybe the answer to highway safety is trackdays and manuals for everyone?

  • avatar

    OK, let’s talk about what actually happened. I am willing to bet that the accelerator pedal was totally fine right up till the moment he blew past a Smokey at 100+ mph and watched the trooper pull out after him.

    Once he had claimed he was going so fast because of a “stuck pedal” or whatever other BS he claimed, he had to continue behaving like that; hence the refusal to do anything that would actually stop the car (like, say, just mashing hard on the brake pedal).

    There was never anything the least bit wrong with the car. The driver? Plenty wrong.

  • avatar

    This Daily Mail article from the UK posted his photos from his Facebook page. Face tattoos makes thos guy’s story totally credible.

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