Police: Faulty Camry likely caused fatal UT crash

WENDOVER, Utah (AP) — Police suspect problems with a Toyota Camry’s accelerator or floor mat caused a Utah crash that left two people dead and two others injured.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Nathan Croft told the Salt Lake Tribune that 66-year-old Paul Vanalfen’s 2008 Camry slammed into a rock wall in Wendover on Nov. 5, killing him and 38-year-old Charlene Lloyd, his son’s fiancee. Police said Vanalfen died at the scene, and Lloyd, who had been critically injured, died the following day.

Vanalfen’s wife, Shirlene, 61, and son, Cameron, 34, were treated and released for injuries at Salt Lake’s University of Utah Hospital, said spokeswoman Cathy Wilets. She didn’t have details on their treatments or conditions.

Shirlene Vanalfen, of Washington Terrace, Utah, told the paper Saturday that the family is considering litigation, but declined further comment.

Tire skid marks at the crash site showed Vanalfen tried to stop the Camry as it exited Interstate 80, but the car went through an intersection before hitting the wall, Croft said Saturday. The Camry’s brakes appeared to be in working order, he said.

Toyota Motor Corp. has recently recalled millions of vehicles because of floor mats that can snag gas pedals or accelerators that can sometimes stick. Hundreds of lawsuits were filed against Toyota after the automaker began issuing the worldwide recalls.

Croft told the newspapers that Vanalfen’s Camry was subject to at least three recalls, one mandatory and two voluntary. The mandatory recall and repair, for a sticking accelerator, had been completed, he said.

He said authorities are continuing to investigate whether the recalls and repairs for a short accelerator pad and a sticky floor mat were also completed.

Croft said investigators’ suspect that one of those problems caused the crash.

“We can’t say definitely, but there is a strong likelihood that that in fact did cause the crash,” Croft told the newspaper.

Toyota told The Associated Press that it was “supporting the Utah Highway Patrol with their investigation.”

“Toyota sympathizes with the friends and family of Paul Vanalfen,” Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Paul Nolasco in Tokyo said Monday.

Nolasco said he did not have details on whether the Camry underwent any fixes under its recall. He said it was premature to draw any conclusions with the investigation ongoing.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration from Toyota drivers in the past decade, including 93 deaths. The government, however, has confirmed only four deaths from one crash.

In September, Toyota settled a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount with the relatives of four people killed when a driver was unable to stop a runaway Lexus in August 2009.

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