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911 Call Released in Stuck Accelerator Crash

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It sent chills down our spine.

A California highway patrol officer and three family members were killed when their loaner car's accelerator stuck and they crashed going 100 mph. The audio of the 911 call made from the car moments before the crash has just been released.


Mark Saylor, 45; his wife, Cleofe, 45; his daughter, Mahala, 13; and his brother-in-law, Chris Lastrella, 38, were all killed in the crash. Listen to the chilling 911 call here:

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Toyota has ordered its dealers to conduct mandatory inspections of all Lexus and Toyota vehicles this week, after a preliminary investigation into the Saylor crash determined that the wrong floor mat had been installed in the loaner Lexus sedan.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigators said the all-weather floor mat discovered in the wreckage of the 2009 Lexus ES 350 could have caused the accelerator to become stuck. The rubber mat, sold as an accessory item, was longer by a couple of inches than the original mat that came with the vehicle.

What should we do if our accelerator ever gets stuck? We called our friend Mr. Traffic, a.k.a. Kenny Morse, for guidance.

"Knowing what to do in the unlikely case of a gas pedal sticking might save your life," he says. "First of all, this happens rarely, but if you keep your wits about you and do not panic, it can make all the difference."

Mark Saylor

Here are his top tips:

• First, try to hit the pedal to make sure nothing is forcing it down.

• Next, PUT THE CAR IN NEUTRAL IMMEDIATELY, and gently start to brake, being aware of the traffic around you, and pull the car to the side of the street or road as soon as possible.

• The last resort is turning off the ignition, but you have to make sure that you do not lock the steering wheel. You will lose your power in the brakes and steering. DO NOT try to drive the vehicle, as it will rev the engine to a dangerous level.

"Knowing what to do in a potential emergency is what makes a driver a driver," Morse says. "Anyone can step on the gas and go straight, but do you know how to avoid a collision, or something like this?"

For more on how to deal with emergency situations, check out

Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of the victims of this horrific crash.

next: Woman Spanked Stranger's Child in Store
102 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lisa  September 16, 2009, 2:11 PM

That something as simple as the wrong floor mat being placed in the vehicle could have led to the death of 4 people is beyond tragic. My heart goes out to their family members.

bob barker September 16, 2009, 8:24 PM

it’s unfortunate that this happened, but it really seems pretty obvious that the first instinct would be to throw the car into neutral and use the brakes (no article i’ve read said the floormats were impeding access to the brakes). you’d think a man with the training that, i assume, a highway patrol officer receives would have known this.

joey September 17, 2009, 12:11 AM would you not put the car in neutral….or turn it off…i just dont get it

ashley September 17, 2009, 4:56 AM

I got hit in the parking lot of my high school about a week after I got my first car. I had just gotten in and shut the door when someone slammed into my drivers side. The kid said his accelerator was stuck and I never really believed him, especially after I found out he had been in 5 other accidents and was only 16. But I guess it could have been true.

Mindy September 17, 2009, 11:28 AM

Bob & Joey - The floor mat wasn’t blocking access to the brake… he was using the brakes but that does not override the accelerator. The hard braking by the driver is what caused the Lexus to catch on fire. Also, it’s not so simple to shut off the engine while en route on an 09 Lexus because of the push button keyless start/stop ignition. Most people don’t know that while driving you can only shut off the engine by pressing and holding down the button for several seconds. Pushing it over and over while in drive will do nothing. Neutral would have been the only way to prevent this… very sad. Maybe he didn’t think of it because it was a loan car and not his vehicle that he’s accustomed to driving… It’s easy for you to say that it seems obvious or that you just don’t get it. I wonder if you would have handled the car any differently faced with such a frightening set of circumstances.

joemama September 17, 2009, 5:32 PM

practice makes perfect…

Anonymous September 18, 2009, 7:31 AM

Take a look at the ES 350’s transmission…..this could be hard to do in a panic situation and an unfamiliar car…

I might be afraid to put in it reverse if paying attention to the road. That would certainly cause a crash.

Todd1952SF September 29, 2009, 4:00 PM

I remember back in the 1960’s when Driver’s Education and Driver’s Training was required for high school graduation, sitting in the classroom when the teacher asked us, “What should you do if your gas pedal gets stuck and your car is speeding out of control?” I raised my hand, was called on and answered “Put it in neutral and turn off the ignition.” I was correct.

It’s something every driver should know in case the accelerator gets stuck, which can happen for a variety of mechanical reasons besides a floor mat problem.

I was shocked that the driver didn’t put that car in neutral and, instead, fought the stuck accelerator with the brakes alone.

One thing to know nowadays is that cars with a “start/stop” button, you need to hold that button in for three seconds to shut off the engine in an emergency.

If you turn off the ignition key, leave the key in the slot so as not to lock the steering column.

Davis September 29, 2009, 7:27 PM

So kids, what did we learn about prayer?

Smarter September 29, 2009, 8:55 PM

Hey Mindy, No car will overpower its brakes. Brakes will always stop a car even at full at full throttle.

The mat could have been bunched under the brake pedal and pressing the accelerator pedal at the same time, but this does not excuse not putting the car in neutral, turning the car off, using the emergency brake, clearing the stuff under the pedals…all before making a phone call.

Mark September 29, 2009, 11:07 PM

Dumb comment, Davis.

Erik September 30, 2009, 10:17 AM

afraid to throw it into reverse.. ?

but if you’re that afraid to ruin a car, and miss the chance to save your life.. where are your priorities?

Tragic occurrence, and a surprise that a CHP officer couldn’t think on his feet.

Hmmm October 3, 2009, 10:24 PM

Either this guy was suicidal or the car was rigged. Whatever the situation, it is very suspicious. This guy had enough time to call 911…. He could have thrown it into reverse, park, a lower gear or even shut off the engine. This was something more than a stuck accelerator. Is everyone really that blind…the truth will eventually come out. Prayers to the families.

Dave October 4, 2009, 4:25 PM

two idiots. one driver, one 911 operator who couldn’t say “turn off the car” or “put it in neutral”

robert October 5, 2009, 6:01 PM

this chp officer killed his familly the truth will come out eventially theres no way on earth that a chp officer with that much training does not know what to do in that situation.

You are god October 6, 2009, 5:23 AM

The mat was stuck under the brake pedal and over the gas pedal. either way, for him not to put it in neutral is kinda dumb…it doesnt even have to be neutral but any other gear would have helpd.

Anonymous October 9, 2009, 11:03 PM

Floor mat my eye. Several Toyota models have been having the same problem. It’s the “fly by wire” gas pedal which needs to be investigated. I do not believe a highway patrolman would be so lame as to not know that a mat was touching his pedals. Also, the brakes weren’t working. Wanna blame that on some mat too?

Larauwen October 10, 2009, 3:35 PM

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Chris October 24, 2009, 4:19 PM


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