A few weeks ago, we learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ruled that the crash of a loaner Lexus ES350 that killed San Diego police officer Mark Saylor, his wife, 13-year-old daughter and brother in law was not just the result of an improper RX400h floor mat sticking the accelerator wide open it was due to a range of factors. In addition to the car having the wrong mats, the brake "rotors were discolored and heated, had very rough surfaces, had substantial deposits of brake pad material, and showed signs of bright orange oxidation on the cooling fins consistent with endured braking."
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, it turns out that three days before the crash, Frank Bernard had been given the loaner Lexus and experienced the floor mat sticking the throttle wide open. "[W]hile merging onto Interstate 15 from the Poway Road on-ramp, [Bernard] took his foot off the gas and the car kept accelerating, to 85 mph." Here's where it gets even more tragic:
"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."
As stated above, without brake-assist (which would disappear after a few moments due to loss of engine vacuum at wide-open throttle) Bernard was able to stop the car, but the brakes would have been fairly stressed. Bernard returned the car to the dealership, but only told a receptionist about the floor mat incident. For her part, the receptionist at first stated she didn't remember Bernard or his story, but later changed her tune, stating that she told a vehicle specialist about the issue. The vehicle specialist denies ever hearing about it. And the vice president of Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon has no comment.
The question then becomes if the proper personnel had been alerted to Mr. Bernard's incident, would the ES350 have received new brakes and the correct mats before it was lent to the Saylors? It should also be noted that the ES350 was loaned to two other customers between Bernard and the Saylors without incident. Toyota has since recalled 3.8 million vehicles to reshape and replace accelerator pedals.
[Source: San Diego Union Tribune]