Some of those injured or killed because of TOYOTA's FAILURES are included in the article below.
The DOJ documents are worth reading in their entirety:
TOYOTA spent $1.2 BILLION to stay out of jail.
Where does it say TOYOTA will make things right?
They died in Toyotas, leaving many questions
By Sharon Silke Carty, USA TODAY
DETROIT — It's easy to forget that much of the pressure that led to Toyota's first recall of millions of vehicles in October grew from one highly publicized car accident. The fiery crash near San Diego on Aug. 28 — with a dramatic 911 call from the runaway Lexus caught on tape — killed a California
Highway Patrol officer and his wife, daughter and brother-in-law.
In the last moments of the 52-second tape, they tell each other to hold on and pray.
But there are other stories of lives lost, families forever changed, listed anonymously in the complaint database run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many incidents predate by years the crash that killed Officer Mark Saylor and his family, and passed with little notice even as they became part of a string of incidents that led to the recalls of nearly 8 million Toyota vehicles over potential unintended acceleration.
TOYOTA SPEAKS: Automaker disputes account of runaway Prius driver
USA TODAY examined 25 of the 43 fatal accidents with 52 deaths. They are among 2,600 complaints to NHTSA since 2000 that allege sudden unintended acceleration in Toyota products.
Victims were identified and more information was sought from survivors who are looking to the government for answers, believing that the vehicles were somehow at fault.
These are the most serious cases, but looking at the stories also shows they can be the most difficult for automakers or safety officials to investigate. The driver often is dead. Witnesses are few.
"We are far from knowing … whether individual accidents were caused by the apparent defects that are getting so much attention," says Ed Higgins, a product liability lawyer with law firm Plunkett Cooney of Detroit.
Toyota says it is investigating each complaint as quickly as possible, but notes NHTSA's database isn't easy to navigate. It includes no names or full vehicle identification numbers; automakers can request more data.
"It is important to note that many of the complaints in the NHTSA database, for any manufacturer, lack sufficient detail that could help identify the cause of an accident, or in some cases, even the people involved," the company said in a statement.
Some trends did emerge from examining the fatal crashes:
•The allegations of acceleration extend across Toyota's product line: The 25 cases involve nine models and 20 model years, and a majority are not among the millions recalled: Nine of the 25 are on the recall lists.
•Some complaints reveal other factors that likely figured in the crash: Three drivers allegedly were intoxicated (one died at the scene; two face charges).
•Many drivers were older: Twelve of the 25 were over age 60; nine over 70. In each case, family members say their relatives had no medical conditions that would impair their driving. Many called them careful drivers.
•Many of the crashed cars aren't around to study. Families say that — at least before the recent recalls — they saw no reason to hang onto what was left of the cars and had them scrapped. "We talked to an attorney who said, 'Why didn't you lock the car up in a barn?' " says Dirk van der Linden, whose mother, Marjorie, 84, died in a 2009 crash. "We didn't know about the Toyota problems, or we would have."
•The fatal crashes involve all speeds and types. Eleven were on highways, 10 on town or city streets. Four were in parking lots, including one in which the victims roared off an upper floor of a parking garage.
•Most involve moving forward. Only two fatalities occurred with the car in reverse.
Here are details of incidents as told by families, survivors and police.
Contributing: Anne R. Carey in McLean, Va.
A popular Texas teacher
Place: Abilene, Texas
Date: April 9, 2007
Deceased: Ray Ann Gloyna, 58
Vehicle: 2001 Toyota Avalon (not recalled)
Details: It's been almost three years since his wife died in a car accident, and Dennis Gloyna says he's still a bit of a mess. He's planning to put his house up for sale and is holding an estate sale to get rid of some of the things they acquired through the years.
"I can't be in the house, and I can't have those things around me," he says. "I marvel at people I've talked to who have had tragedies and at how well they've made it. I'm just not one of those people."
Ray Ann Gloyna was on her way to Mexia, Texas, to visit her sick mother at the time of the crash. She'd driven the 250 miles east to Mexia countless times before, having lived in Abilene for almost 20 years. She'd been through the intersection where she died countless times, her husband says.
Inexplicably, Ray Ann Gloyna ran through the intersection's stop sign and into the side of an 18-wheeler.
There were no skid marks indicating that she'd tried to slow down, just divots in the pavement from the force of the crash. She died instantly.
Ray Ann was a popular teacher in the Abilene school district, teaching a transitional first-grade program for students who needed some extra attention before moving up to full-time first grade. Her husband says her funeral was standing-room only. The school district brought in counselors to help students deal with their grief.
Dennis says he filed a complaint with NHTSA about three months ago, after hearing the reports about Toyota's sudden-acceleration cases. He hasn't heard back from the safety agency.
"I wrote that thinking this is like going to a dead-letter office," he said. "I might as well write Santa Claus."
While he's waiting for a response and for some sort of investigation, he at least now feels like he has an answer to the mystery of his wife's death.
"The only way this could have happened is if she could not have stopped the car," he says.
'He was just too good of a driver'
Date: Oct. 22, 2009
Deceased: Sage Logan Young Bear Janesch, 18
Vehicle: 2005 Toyota Prius (not recalled)
Details: Last March, Janesch was about to head into the Marines and fulfill his dream of serving before becoming a police officer. Then he found out his girlfriend was pregnant.
So he set aside his plans to become a Marine, realizing he'd be away from his child for 10 months of every year of the baby's first three years. He went back to school, and on Oct. 21 spent the evening at the hospital with his girlfriend, who thought she was in labor.
As he left the hospital, he called his father to tell him he'd be home soon. The 35-mile ride should take about 45 minutes. He never made it.
Janesch's father, Steve, says he has no idea what happened that night. Janesch was a safe driver, the father says, often swatting his dad on the arm if he drove over the speed limit. Tests done after Janesch's death showed there was nothing physically wrong with him. He hadn't been drinking.
What's known is this: Janesch's car sped down a tight exit ramp off I-10 in Tucson. His car rammed over a curb and traveled 130 feet before slamming into a concrete beam. The impact tore the roof off his car, and the trauma to his head killed Janesch instantly.
"We just want to find out what happened, because I just can't believe my son fell asleep or lost control of the vehicle," Steve says. "He was just too good of a driver for that."
'My mother would never drive like that'
Place: Flint, Mich.
Date: April 19, 2008
Deceased: Guadalupe Alberto, 77
Vehicle: 2005 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: This part of the country is where the domestic automakers are solidly still in charge. And Flint is where General Motors was born and where it is still the king on the roads.
So it was a bit unusual that Alberto, a former GM line worker and convenience store owner, would be driving a Toyota. When her old Buick started to die, she wanted to replace it with a Buick LeSabre. But one of her four children said a Toyota would be a better choice.
One day in April 2008, Alberto lost control of her car. She sped down West Copeman Boulevard in Flint at 80 mph, dodging other cars before striking a tree. She died instantly.
"My mother would never drive like that," says Lilia Alberto. "She didn't even drive on the expressway because she didn't like driving fast."
'This whole thing has never made sense'
Place: Athens, Ga.
Date: June 5, 2005
Deceased: Ella Mae Braswell, 83 ; Lon Braswell, 85
Vehicle: 2005 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: Lon and Ella Mae Braswell were on their way north from Florida to Virginia, planning to attend their great-grandson's graduation and their granddaughter's wedding. Their plans included a side trip to Athens, Ga., to visit a family member.
Instead, Ella Mae drove their Camry off Route 24 and into a stand of trees. The police report says there were no skid marks on the road, and no indication the driver tried to stop. The car was going about 80 mph.
"It was a real shocking accident," says Henry Braswell, their son. "It was shocking to me that my mother would've been driving a car that fast."
Braswell says his mother was a good driver. She'd spent her younger years driving everything from dump trucks to tractor trailers. The family owned a truck stop and a tow truck and would tow stranded 18-wheelers when needed.
"This whole thing has never made sense," says Braswell, who filed his complaint with NHTSA after reports on Toyota's problems began. He says he wishes his parents had been driving something else, such as the Lincoln they'd owned for years before leasing the Toyota.
A police officer and his family
Place: Santee, Calif.
Date: Aug. 28, 2009
Deceased: Mark Saylor, 45, driver; Cleofe Saylor, 45, passenger; Mahala Saylor, 13, passenger; Chris Lastrella, 38, passenger
Vehicle: 2009 Lexus ES 350
Details: This case rocketed Toyota's sudden-acceleration problems into the public eye. Saylor, a California Highway Patrol officer, was driving a loaner Lexus from the dealer when the car began accelerating.
Cleofe Saylor's brother, Chris Lastrella, called 911 in the moments before the crash. He said the car was going about 120 mph, and the driver couldn't stop. "We're in trouble," he said. The freeway was ending in a half-mile.
In the background, there's the sound of a male voice saying, "Hold on guys. Pray. Pray."
The car entered the intersection at Highway 125 and Mission Gorge Road, where it clipped a Ford Explorer. The 911 call recorded the sound of screams.
The car flew off the road and was airborne 150 feet before landing in the San Diego River basin. Everyone inside was killed.
Driver lived; his friend did not
Place: Wrentham, Mass.
Date: Aug. 11, 2009
Deceased: Adam Palmer, 22
Vehicle: 2007 Toyota Scion tC (not recalled)
Details: Palmer was a passenger in a car driven by Joseph Mele, a childhood friend. They were heading home to Mendon, Mass., after spending the day painting an apartment in Cape Cod, when the accident occurred.
The crash happened around 1:30 a.m. The car, which was allegedly set on cruise control at 70 mph, hit a guardrail going about 100 mph. Mele escaped the fiery wreckage, but Palmer did not.
Christopher Loconto, Mele's attorney, says he felt from the beginning that there may have been something wrong with the car.
"We've got a kid here with no history of things like this. His best friend is dead, and he's devastated about the whole thing," Loconto says. "There's so much information that we don't have, and it takes awhile to put it all together."
But the district attorney's office in Dedham, Mass., says it knows exactly what happened: drunken driving.
In court documents, the district attorney's office says it has witnesses who say they pleaded with Mele not to drive because he had been drinking. Two groups of friends drove home from Cape Cod that night, one with a designated driver. The other was Palmer and Mele.
Mele drove erratically, weaving in and out of lanes, and once driving so close to his friend's car, he could almost touch the other car with his hand.
He eventually sped away from the other car, going upwards of 100 mph. The car crashed, and both men initially survived the impact. Mele was able to get away, but Palmer was trapped. He called out for help, but a witness told police the car was burning and too hot to approach. They said they could smell alcohol off Mele from 2 to 3 feet away.
"This witness then watched as Adam Palmer caught on fire and listened to him scream for approximately 45 seconds," court documents say. "The defendant told one of the witnesses that he had just killed his best friend."
Victim told of acceleration before dying
Place: Evansville, Ind.
Date: March 16, 2004
Deceased: Juanita Grossman, 77
Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: When emergency rescue workers reached Grossman, whose car shot out of a drive-through pharmacy lane, grazed a building and then crashed into the offices of Statewide Realty, she was still conscious.
She told family members her car shot across the road and that she had no idea why. Both feet were jammed on the brake.
"I fully believed her," says her son, Bill Grossman. "She was a very bright individual, and she was very particular. Especially about driving."
She died a few days later from her injuries, about 10 minutes after the family decided to take her off life support, says Courtney Cox, her sister.
The family filed a complaint with NHTSA less than a month after the accident.
Driving like a man on fire
Place: Peterborough, N.H.
Date: Oct. 12, 2009
Deceased: Stephen Lagakos, 63, driver; Regina Lagakos, 61; Helen Lagakos, 94; Stephen Krause, 56, driver of another car
Vehicle: 2002 Toyota Highlander (not recalled)
Details: After this accident that killed three family members — one a Harvard public health researcher — and the driver of an oncoming car, police in Peterborough, N.H., searched for clues.
They contacted friends and family to find out more about Stephen Lagakos. What was he like? Did he have any appointments he could have been rushing to? Did he take any medications? Was he fighting with anyone? What had he eaten?
They contacted local hospitals and doctors to see whether Lagakos had reported any emergencies. Was he heading to the ER? They looked at cellphone records to see whom he had called and whether he was on the phone during the crash.
"Through all of that, we didn't find anything out of the ordinary," says Peterborough Police Chief Scott Guinard.
What they did have was a witness who said Lagakos was driving like a man on fire. He roared up to a car on Route 202 and passed on the right shoulder.
He then came upon another car and swerved left, trying to pass, but hitting the Chevy Malibu driven by Krause, killing both drivers and two passengers.
Driver knew the road well
Place: San Diego
Date: Feb. 12, 2007
Deceased: Phat Xuan Nguyen, 73
Vehicle: 1997 Toyota Avalon (not recalled)
Details: Nguyen, a former lieutenant colonel in the South Vietnamese Air Force who immigrated to the U.S. in 1975, lost control of his vehicle on his own street in San Diego. He smashed into two utility poles and suffered massive trauma.
He died three months later, spending his final days on feeding tubes and never regaining consciousness.
June Nguyen says her father knew the road well — he'd lived on Mission Village Drive for 20 years — and was heading to the gym in the middle of the day when the crash occurred.
"That's the most difficult part. We always wanted to know what was going on," she says. "But at that time, we were just thankful he didn't hurt anyone else."
Nguyen's daughter says she always thought the Avalon, which isn't on the recall list, acted funny and had some acceleration issues. But the car was destroyed in the crash, so the questions may never be answered.
A mess of confusion
Place: Wilmington, Mass.
Date: Sept. 5, 2003
Deceased: Maria Cafua, 44
Vehicle: 2002 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: In the pre-dawn hours, three cars converged on I-93 near Boston in a mess of confusion that may have blurred the real cause of the crash.
Police say they had reports of a Ford Escort driving erratically on the highway before the crash. Cafua entered the highway at Concord Street, and the crash happened almost immediately. The Escort, driven by Jamal Dayek of New Hampshire, the Camry and a Ford pickup, driven by Thomas Galvin of Methuen, Mass., collided.
Cafua was thrown from her car. She died seven months later from her injuries.
The complaint to NHTSA says witnesses saw Cafua's car shoot across three lanes before it was broadsided by one of the other vehicles.
'We just miss her, every day'
Place: Davidson County, N.C.
Date: Nov. 9, 2004
Deceased: Kristin Kaye Jensen Riemensperger, 34
Vehicle: 2001 Toyota Sequoia (not recalled)
Details: On a clear, dry November afternoon, as Riemensperger headed to a storage facility to pick up some things after her recent divorce, the young mother of four swerved onto the highway rumble strip.
Police say she overcorrected, jerking the car left across three lanes of traffic. She hit a plastic construction barrier, and the SUV began to roll, finally landing in the median.
Riemensperger died the next day. Police reported no evidence of drug or alcohol use.
"I've never really had closure," says Judith Jensen, Riemensperger's mom. "I don't think you get closure anyway. It's just something people say. But I've been extremely puzzled about that accident."
Jensen says her daughter was "absolutely beautiful" and had modeled from time to time. When the crash occurred, she was living with her dad temporarily. Her children remained with their father while Riemensperger prepared to go back to college to get her degree.
The children — Kory, Kevin, Kayla and Kylie — are fine, Jensen says, although the accident left them rattled for a long time. "We just miss her, every day," she says.
A four-car, fiery crash
Place: Manchac, La.
Date: April 21, 2008
Deceased: Martin Davison, 47
Vehicle: 2007 Toyota Camry (recalled)
Details: The Sunday-night crash that killed Davison was a fiery mess.
It involved four cars and also resulted in six injuries. Traffic had slowed because of an accident a bit farther up the road.
As cars were coming to a stop in the heavy traffic, the 2007 Toyota Camry driven by Alex George, 45, of Buras, La., struck the rear of the 1997 Nissan Pathfinder driven by Davison.
The impact forced the Pathfinder into the back of a Chevrolet pickup. The Chevrolet then rear-ended another car. The Camry and the Pathfinder erupted into flames, police said. The Pathfinder rolled over, landing near the side of the road.
State Trooper Melissa Matey says George was charged with vehicular homicide because his blood alcohol content was above the 0.08% state limit. The case is still being tried, Matey says.
However, the anonymous complaint filed with NHTSA alleges the Camry's floor mat trapped the accelerator pedal, causing the car to accelerate into the Pathfinder. George could not be reached for comment.
A pedestrian killed outside ShopRite
Place: Palisades Park, N.J.
Date: Oct. 16, 2006
Deceased: Florence Dembek, 79 (pedestrian)
Vehicle: 2005 Toyota Camry (recalled)
Details: Myron Leeds, 79, from neighboring Cliffside Park, was trying to pull into a parking spot outside the ShopRite supermarket when he lost control.
His Camry slammed into one car, spun around, hit another car, then crashed into a motorcycle. It kept going at up to 25 mph, slamming into a stand of shopping carts and two elderly sisters, Florence and Helen Dembek. Florence Dembek died three days later.
The police report says Leeds was yelling out the window at people to get out of the way. He told police he doesn't know what had happened.
The anonymous complainant to NHTSA says mechanics could find nothing wrong with Leeds' Camry. Leeds was ticketed for careless driving. He had the care repaired and sold it, so family members say they worry it could still be on the road somewhere.
A complicated chain-reaction crash
Place: Waipahu, Hawaii
Date: May 14, 2004
Deceased: Rodrigo Albano, 44
Vehicle: 2002 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: As Albano left the gym that afternoon, he decided to stop at a snack truck selling manapua, a Hawaiian specialty of barbecue pork dumplings. While he stood in line, he became the victim of a chain of events that had started minutes earlier up the road.
A Camry driver — a 68-year-old woman police did not identify — hit the side of Tsumoto's store and sped away south toward the ocean down Paiwa Street, a residential road near Pearl Harbor. In about a half-mile, it reached Waipahu Recreation Center, veered right and hit a parked Nissan.
It then struck a moving 1998 Kia, which hit Albano. The Kia also hit the manapua truck, which was forced into a parked pickup. The manapua truck owner, a woman in her 50s, tried to escape by driving her truck away, but ended up hitting the pickup a second time.
She was listed in critical condition after the crash, as was the 68-year-old driver.
Albano's mother, Helen Albano, says her son was a plumber's aide. His four children still live with their mother nearby. She says thinks of her son every day.
"It's really hard to erase it in my mind," she says. "I don't know what that woman was thinking."
Police did not return calls asking for further information on the case or possible charges.
Within hours of crash, a fatal stroke
Place: Spirit Lake, Iowa
Date: Sept. 28, 2009
Deceased: Marjorie van der Linden, 84
Vehicle: 2004 Toyota Camry Solara (not recalled)
Details: Marjorie van der Linden was heading down a little street when her car began speeding up. It jumped a curb, ran over a small evergreen and hit a lamp post and concrete business-park sign, before coming to rest at the base of a big concrete fountain.
She banged her head on the wheel, was a bit dazed and said she didn't know what happened.
Within hours, she suffered a stroke. Six days later, she died.
Van der Linden was the primary caretaker of her husband, John. He moved into a nursing home after the crash and died just seven weeks after his wife.
"After about a month, he said, 'This is a gloomy place,' " their son, Dirk, recalls. "He got all depressed, and that was the end."
'Is this going to happen to me?'
Place: Mendham, N.J.
Date: May 27, 2009
Deceased: Nancy Anzalone, 49
Vehicle: 2007 Toyota Camry (recalled)
Details: During the past 12 months, Alfred Anzalone has had to cope with two losses. His daughter, Nancy, died in a car crash in May. His wife, Helen, passed away in January. She had a heart attack the morning of her daughter's funeral and never recovered, Anzalone says.
The NHTSA complainant, an anonymous relative, acknowledged in the filing that Nancy Anzalone suffered from bipolar disorder and was on the way to the hospital but insisted she was not suicidal.
Her father, who says he is convinced his daughter died because of Toyota's sudden-acceleration problems, disagrees with the complaint. He says his daughter was heading to work that morning and that witnesses say she sped through a red light with her emergency flashers on. A truck driver who saw the crash in his rearview mirror says the car swerved to miss him and crashed into a tree.
Police found the car burning and in two pieces.
Anzalone says he never saw the car again. Police told him the pieces were taken to a junk yard.
Now, he says, his life is in pieces. And he's scared to drive.
"I have a Toyota myself, and every time I leave the driveway I think, 'Is this going to happen to me?' "
'I am afraid of those cars'
Place: Chicago, Ill.
Date: Aug. 26, 2008
Deceased: Kenneth Fly, 45 (pedestrian)
Vehicle: 2006 Lexus ES 330 (not recalled)
Details: Willette Green, then 60 years old, was on her way to work at an office in downtown Chicago at about 5:35 a.m. She had a piece of gum in her mouth, as she usually did (it helped her focus on the road, she says) and was listening to a gospel CD. She hoped to get into work by 6 a.m. so she could read some Scripture before starting her day.
She says she went down an exit ramp of I-94 and felt her Lexus ES 330 start to accelerate, even as she pressed the brake. Green began to panic as the car blew through a red light. There were two pedestrians in the intersection: a newspaperman and a panhandler. Her car struck the panhandler, Kenneth Fly, and kept going.
Her car smashed into a Dodge Charger and a Ford commercial truck and kept accelerating until it collided with a concrete pillar. It eventually came to rest after hitting a chain-link fence.
Green was shaken up but mostly OK. Fly, however, was in critical condition. He died four days later.
"I think about that accident every day, every day," says Green, who now owns an Infiniti. She got a ticket for reckless driving, which she paid, she says. "Every time I see a Lexus logo or I turn on the TV and hear something about Toyota, it reminds me. I am afraid of those cars. You couldn't give me one now."
'Oh my God, his family doesn't have him'
Place: Scotch Plains, N.J.
Date: Aug. 21, 2009
Deceased: Dennis Ledzian, 62 (pedestrian)
Vehicle: 1996 Toyota Avalon (not recalled)
Details: A week before the San Diego car crash that killed Mark Saylor and his family, Jane Zakutansky experienced her own nightmare.
As she and her daughter drove through downtown Scotch Plains that Friday afternoon, she decided to pull over and have her daughter drop some letters into a blue postal box by the side of the road. But as she tried to slow down, the car wouldn't stop.
"My daughter said, 'Mom, slow down!' And I said, 'I'm trying, I'm trying,' " recalls Zakutansky, then 58.
When the engine began revving, Zakutansky did the only thing she could think of: With her foot on the brake, she tried putting the car into park. That didn't work. The car slammed into reverse and sped backward, finally stopping 50 feet down the road when it hit a utility pole.
Zakutansky had no idea that in those few seconds, she'd struck someone. Ledzian, who was trying to cross the street, had been pinned between his own car and Zakutansky's. Her car then dragged him.
He died a week later.
"If I could replace my life with that man's, I would have," says Zakutansky, who hasn't driven since the crash and doesn't know if she ever will again. "It's been six months, and I don't eat. I can't sleep.
It's just the worst feeling in the world."
She says she had a tough time convincing the police that the crash was caused by mechanical problems in the car. Police asked her over and over again to explain, giving her frequent updates on Ledzian's deteriorating condition as they repeatedly interviewed her.
"They wanted me to know the severity of it, in case I didn't know," Zakutansky says. "It's been six months, and I know it every day. Sometimes I just want to take a rest from it, but then I think about his family. I think, they're celebrating Christmas without him. I'm thinking, oh my God, his family doesn't have him."
Police gave Zakutansky a ticket for careless driving.
A plunge off a parking garage
Place: Las Vegas
Date: Jan. 22, 2004
Deceased: George Yago, 83, and Maureen Yago, 79
Vehicle: 2002 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: George Yago was attempting to park his car on the fourth floor of a casino parking lot when the car accelerated off the side of the parking deck and fell to the ground. He and his wife of 49 years died, and the crash left their only son wondering whether his father had suffered from a heart attack moments before the crash.
According to newspaper reports, witnesses saw the Camry stop, then accelerate. It jumped a curb and then plowed through a wall. It landed on its roof.
The son, George Yago III, did not respond to requests for an interview. But he filed a complaint about his parents' car with NHTSA in April 2004, just a few months after his parents' crash, and years before the recalls.
An Iowa father of two
Place: Worthington, Iowa
Date: Feb. 20, 2008
Deceased: Dustin Mullett, 36
Vehicle: 2007 Toyota Tundra (recalled)
Details: This crash killed a father of two in the middle of the afternoon. Police say Mullett was driving south on Iowa 136, lost control and slammed into a tree at an estimated 80 to 100 mph. Police say he was not wearing a seatbelt.
Mullett's wife, Michelle, filed the complaint with NHTSA the following day, claiming there must've been something wrong with her husband's car. She could not be reached for comment.
A 3-month-old minivan
Place: Cass County, Minn.
Date: Aug. 11, 2007
Deceased: David Bruce Schowalter, 47
Vehicle: 2007 Toyota Sienna (not recalled)
Details: Police say roads were dry at the time of the 9:45 a.m. crash that killed Schowalter. On the way home from a YMCA camp, the minivan was heading around a slight bend in the highway when it crossed the center lane and crashed into another vehicle.
Schowalter's wife, Karen, filed a complaint with NHTSA after the Toyota recalls were in the news. She told the government that the crash investigation never found a cause and that the 3-month-old van had fewer than 3,000 miles on it.
"Please investigate our accident report and be sure the safety and reliability of Siennas is sound," she wrote.
Schowalter was a doctor at the Mayo Clinic who worked in genetics and was an assistant professor at the Rochester, Minn., hospital.
Cruise control questioned
Place: Concord, Calif.
Date: Dec. 25, 2003
Deceased: Boni Rodriguez Pardo, 22
Vehicle: 1989 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: About 4 a.m. Christmas morning, Pardo was on Detroit Avenue about a quarter-mile from his home. He lost control of his Camry, slammed into a tree, then spun and hit a garbage truck.
Pardo was declared dead at the scene. An anonymous person, who didn't explain their relation to Pardo, filed a complaint with NHTSA a month later, claiming the accident was the result of a defective cruise-control mechanism that resulted in an open throttle.
But a county coroner's report shows Rodriguez's blood-alcohol content was 0.27%, more than three times the legal limit.
No drugs or alcohol
Place: North Wantagh, N.Y.
Date: Aug. 4, 2009
Deceased: Paul Villalta, 35
Vehicle: 2005 Toyota Camry (recalled)
Details: Villalta was seen driving erratically and speeding on the Southern Parkway on Long Island moments before the Tuesday afternoon crash. A local news station sent its helicopter over the scene and said the car was virtually crushed on impact.
New York State Police investigated the crash and said Villalta didn't have any drugs or alcohol in his system. His mother-in-law, whose car he was driving. filed a complaint with NHTSA.
Loss of control
Place: Phoenix, Ore.
Vehicle: 2004 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Deceased: Ethyl Foster, 67 (passenger)
Date: March 14, 2004
Details: Amy Marie Roarty, then 86, had just picked up Foster for their regular Sunday morning trip to church. As Roarty was driving through the mobile home development, she lost control of the car.
The passenger side of the white sedan struck one of the mobile homes, crushing Foster, who died at the scene.
Roarty's "foot hit the gas instead of the brake," Clarence Foster, the victim's husband, told the Oregon Mail Tribune at the time of the crash. "The passenger side hit the mobile home, which came through the car and crushed my wife."
The complaint, filed shortly after the accident, claims Roarty had difficulty shifting from park into reverse and that when she shifted into drive, the car "accelerated uncontrollably."
Roarty passed away in 2006.
Pinned between cars
Place: Delray Beach, Fla.
Date: March 15, 2004
Deceased: Blossom Malick, 79 (pedestrian)
Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Camry (not recalled)
Details: Leonard Rubin, then 88, was backing out of a handicap parking spot outside 3 G's Deli on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, when his car accelerated and pinned Malick against her car. She died the same day.
Rubin told police that the car malfunctioned and accelerated on its own. He also said the brakes wouldn't work. He managed to move the car away from Malick after the crash and park about 20 feet away.
Rubin, who was issued a citation by Palm Beach County officers, had purchased the car the previous summer. It had just 2,100 miles on it. He refused to drive it again and returned it to the Massachusetts dealer.
Rubin died in April 2008.