Toyotas, Deaths and Sudden Acceleration
By Stuart Pfeifer, Carol J. Williams and Robert Faturechi
February 28, 2010
At least 56 people have died in U.S. traffic accidents in which sudden unintended acceleration of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles has been alleged, according to complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, lawsuits and police and state highway patrol reports. Some of the victims’ names are unknown because NHTSA did not disclose them and they could not be confirmed through other sources. A Toyota spokesman declined to comment, saying the company does not discuss cases in which litigation has been, or could be, filed.
Here are the accounts of those fatalities, based on public records.
Date: March 2, 1992
Victim: Stanley Sirnik
Location: West Virginia
Model: 1992 Toyota 4Runner
Details: When his sport utility vehicle suddenly began to accelerate on a winding road — his brakes ineffective and his cruise control locked — Stanley Sirnik drove up an embankment to avoid an approaching cliff, according to a complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The 1992 4Runner, which is not included in any recent Toyota recalls, flipped and Sirnik was killed instantly, according to the complaint, which was filed by Sirnik’s wife.
Sirnik had been traveling about 40 mph before the unintended acceleration, according to the complaint. Sirnik’s brother, a passenger in the vehicle, was badly injured, the complaint said.
Date: Sept. 4, 2003
Victim: Maria Cafua
Location: Wilmington, Mass.
Model: 2002 Toyota Camry
Details: Maria Cafua, 44, was in the middle of her early morning commute when the woman’s 2002 Camry accelerated across three lanes before being broadsided by another car in the fast lane, according to relatives and a complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The accident on Interstate 93 on a rainy day in Wilmington, Mass., put Cafua in a coma. The Portuguese immigrant died eight months later.
Cafua is survived by her husband and three children, who were 23, 18 and 10 at the time of the accident.
The 2002 Camry is not included in Toyota’s recent recalls.. Still, David Cafua, now 29, said he believed the accident that killed his mother was caused by a defect in the car.
He said his mother had been taking the same route to her factory job for 12 years. The commute to nearby Watertown was too familiar, he said, and Cafua too cautious of a driver to be involved in such a freak accident.
For now, he said, the family has no intention of taking legal action against the automaker.