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Toyotas, deaths and sudden acceleration

February 28, 2010|By Stuart Pfeifer, Carol J. Williams and Robert Faturechi

"Why no skid marks?" the anguished widower wrote in a complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in November. "There is no other explanation in my mind as to how Ray Ann could have missed the stop sign. The car was out of control and it killed her."

Ray Ann Gloyna had been driving alone, en route to Mexia, Texas, to visit her ailing mother when the accident occurred at 8:30 p.m. A special unit of the Abilene Fire Department had to be dispatched to extract her body from the wreckage, her husband told the government in a plea to review her case.

The 2001 Avalon is not included in the recent Toyota recalls.

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Date: July 26, 2007

Victim: Troy Johnson

Location: San Jose

Model: 2007 Toyota Camry

Details: Guadalupe Gomez of Redwood City drove his 2007 Camry for 20 miles with a stuck accelerator at speeds of more than 100 mph before slamming into a Honda Accord on Interstate 280, killing the Accord's driver, Troy Johnson, according to an attorney representing the victim's family.

Before the crash, Gomez was unable to turn off the engine or shift into neutral and burned out the car's brakes, said attorney Louis Franecke, who is representing Johnson's family.

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Date: Aug. 11, 2007

Victim: David B. Schowalter

Location: Cass County, Minn.

Model: 2007 Toyota Sienna

Details: The Schowalter family was returning home from a YMCA family camp when their 2007 Sienna minivan drifted into opposing traffic and collided head-on with a Lincoln Aviator, said Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske in an interview.

David B. Schowalter, 47, a physician at the Mayo Clinic, was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Karen, and four daughters were injured, as were four occupants of the Aviator, Roeske said.

Karen Schowalter filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Administration stating that an accelerator problem in the Sienna "could definitely be a factor." Roeske said there was no indication in the accident report that a mechanical problem was a factor in the crash. The 2007 Sienna has not been recalled.

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Date: Sept. 20, 2007

Victim: Barbara Schwarz

Location: Yukon, Okla.

Model: 2005 Toyota Camry

Details: Jean Bookout was driving her 2005 Camry on an Oklahoma highway with Barbara Schwarz as a passenger when something caused her car "to suddenly and unexpectedly accelerate" and crash into an embankment, according to a lawsuit that Schwarz's husband filed against Toyota.

Bookout applied the brakes as the car began to accelerate but was unable to slow the vehicle and eventually lost control, the lawsuit alleged.

The 2005 Camry has not been subject to recall, but the lawsuit filed by Charles Schwarz alleges that a defect caused the sudden acceleration and that Toyota officials were aware of the problem and failed to correct it.

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Date: Oct. 26, 2007

Victim: Tyrene Livingston

Location: East Pittsburgh, Pa.

Model: 2007 Toyota Yaris

Details: Less than a week after taking her Yaris to a Toyota shop with complaints about braking problems, Tyrene Livingston was en route to her teaching internship in East Pittsburgh, Pa., when the vehicle suddenly accelerated out of control, according to police reports and a lawsuit filed by her mother, Sandra Livingston.

The Yaris crossed four lanes of highway at high speed, went over a curb, crashed through a guard rail and plunged into trees at the bottom of an embankment, killing the University of Pittsburgh graduate student, the suit said. It alleges design defects in the Yaris' electronic throttle control, negligence by Toyota in selling Livingston a vehicle with known risks of sudden unintended acceleration and wrongful death in the 21-year-old woman's demise.

The aspiring educator had taken her car to the dealership four days before the wreck that took her life, Sandra Livingston said in the lawsuit.

"The vehicle was inspected and tested, and Tyrene was ensured that nothing was wrong," says the suit filed in Los Angeles federal court last week.

The Yaris has not been recalled.

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Date: Feb. 20, 2008

Victim: Dustin Mullett

Location: Worthington, Iowa

Model: 2007 Toyota Tundra

Details: Dustin Mullett was driving down Iowa 136, when his Tundra accelerated, reaching speeds of up to 100 mph, before veering and smashing into a tree in Worthington, Iowa, according to a complaint filed by Mullett's wife with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

No other vehicles were involved in the winter afternoon accident that killed Mullett, according to the Dubuque County Sheriff's Department records division.

Mullett's wife suspected the 2008 accident was caused by a vehicle defect potentially involving the car's all-weather floor mat, the complaint said.::

Date: April 12, 2008

Victim: Unknown

Location: Unknown; complaint filed from Buras, La.

Model: 2007 Toyota Camry LE

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