The accident, which took place on August 28th, left the driver, off-duty California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor, dead, along with his wife, Cleofe, their daughter, Mahala, and Saylor's brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella.
The heartbreaking story began with a call to police about a minute before the crash, with Saylor's passenger indicating the vehicle's brakes were not responding and the accelerator was stuck. The call ends with one of the male occupants directing the others to "hold on and pray," followed by a woman's scream.
Police say the car reached a speed o 120 mph before it clipped an SUV and launched over and embankment, bursting into flames.
Investigators with the NHTSA say the car, which was a loaner from a dealership, had a driver's side rubber all-weather that was too long. It was from a model other than the ES. It is believed the mat interfered with the accelerator and brake pedals.
Toyota spokesman Brian Lyons told the Associated Press the driver could have turned off the car by holding its start button for three seconds. However, this would have resulted in a loss of power steering and power-assist to the brakes. Alternatively, the driver could have shifted the car to neutral when the unintended acceleration began. It's unclear if some other problem prevented this from happening.
Ironically, Toyota recalled Camry and Lexus ES all-weather mats in 2007 after complaints about jammed accelerators. However, the car involved in the crash was not equipped with these mats, but rather mats from another car.