Congress: Mother of Lexus crash victims to testify at Toyota hearing

This Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on Toyota's recent recall woes entitled "Toyota Gas Pedals: Is the Public at Risk?" The committee released a full witness list today, which includes a number of people we were expecting to testify like Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland, President and CEO of Toyota Motor North America Yoshimi Inaba and his boss, the President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, Akio Toyoda.

Along with representatives from a couple of consumer safety groups, there's one witness on the list who took us by surprise: Mrs. Fe Lastrella, a relative of four family members who perished late last August when off-duty California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor lost control of a loaner Lexus ES350 when it experienced sudden unintended acceleration. Mrs. Lastrella is the mother of Saylor's wife, Cleofe, and brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella, who were both killed in the accident. Lastrella's 13-year-old granddaughter Mahala also died in the accident.

The fatal crash was arguably the catalyst for Toyota's recent fall from grace, as it led to the first recall last October of 3.8 million vehicles for defective floor mats that could entrap accelerator pedals on certain models. That recall has since been expanded to 4.9 million vehicles and was followed by another recall in late January of 2.3 million Toyota vehicles with pedals that could also experience unintended acceleration in certain situations.

What effect will Mrs. Lastrella's testimony on Wednesday have on the hearing's outcome? The presence of a family member, a mother no less, who has been so devastatingly impacted by an accident involving a Toyota, will serve to put a human face on the question of whether or not the tragedy could have been prevented – and equally important, whether Toyota, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – or both – are to blame.

[Source: House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform | Image: John Neff]

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