Mother of Runaway Lexus Victims Testifies at Congressional Hearings:
Last August 28th, a full two months before the first of the Toyota recalls were announced, 911 operators in California received a frantic 911 call with someone on the other end saying “hold on, hold on and pray, pray”. That call was made by Chris Lastrella while he, his sister, brother-in-law and niece were barreling down the road at over 120 miles per hour in their runaway Lexus ES-350 in San Diego, California. Mark Saylor, a decorated highway patrolman was driving the vehicle when it suddenly accelerated to 120 miles per hour as he was approaching an intersection. Unable to stop the runaway vehicle, he ultimately lost control and the vehicle, with his wife, daughter and brother-in-law aboard, plunged into a canyon killing all four of them. At the time, it was considered a “freak accident” with no apparent cause. Sadly, we now know that it was due to defective parts that are now part of one of three Toyota recalls covering over 8 million vehicles. Had Toyota announced those recalls just six months earlier, that phone call never would have been made.
Fe Niosco Lastrella lost four of her family members that day. She testified this week in the congressional hearings that were held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington, D.C. Ms. Lastrella was there as the voice of all the victims of Toyota accidents caused by the defective vehicles. The Committee, along with various other government and watchdog groups, is investigating whether the recalls were announced timely as well as other recall related questions. To date, the recalled vehicles have been responsible for at least 39 deaths. What makes this accident an even bigger tragedy is that complaints about sudden acceleration had been pouring in to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and to Toyota officials for years before the first recall was announced. Congressional leaders have accounted for no fewer than 2,500 complaints made to the NHTSA about sudden acceleration problems in Toyota made vehicles. Additionally, State Farm Auto Insurance, one of the nation’s biggest auto insurers had also alerted NHTSA to more than 900 instances of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles over the past ten years, but apparently a full investigation was never opened.
Toyota Motor President Akio Toyodo also testified at the hearings and offered his condolences to Ms. Lastrella and all the other families of accident victims. While his apologies are appreciated, many are asking whether these tragedies could have been prevented altogether. Why did it take such disastrous accidents like this one before a recall was announced? Why did 39 people have to lose their lives and countless others have to suffer injuries before these vehicles were taken off the roadways and the defects repaired? These questions, and others, are what the congressional leaders are hoping to answer this week in Washington, D.C.
We applaud Ms. Lastrella’s courage and offer our condolences to her and to the families of all the other Toyota accidents victims around the world. If you, or a family member, have suffered injuries as a result of an accident involving one of the recalled vehicles and would like to discuss any legal options you may have with and experienced California personal injury attorney, then please call the offices of Ledger & Associates at 1-800-300-0001 or visit us online at www.ledgerlaw.com.