Date: Dec. 15, 2008

Victim: Esook Synn

Location: Los Angeles

Model: 2004 Lexus RX330

Details: Unmi Suk Chung was driving her luxury SUV west on the 10 Freeway when she screamed in panic, "No brakes! No brakes!" passenger Lareau Kum Cho said, according to a report by the California Highway Patrol.The Lexus accelerated to nearly 80 mph before it crashed into a car on the Overland Avenue exit ramp and overturned, killing Esook Synn, a Torrance resident who was a passenger in the back seat. Synn, 69, who was survived by her husband, Kyung; a son, Gordon; and a daughter, Aimee."It's heartbreaking for us to know how scared or terrified she must have been because of the way the accident happened. It breaks our heart," Gordon Synn said.Larry Grassini, an attorney representing Synn's family, said he believed an electronic malfunction caused the vehicle to accelerate while rendering the brakes useless. The RX330 is not among the models recalled by Toyota.

A woman who said she witnessed the crash wrote on the Los Angeles Fire Department website that she could see a "look of terror" in Chung's face as the car raced toward Overland Avenue.

"They looked like they lost control of the car. The car did not look like it was decelerating at all, as if the accelerator was stuck or something," the witness wrote.

Eleven months after the crash, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office charged Chung with gross vehicular manslaughter without alcohol impairment and reckless driving causing injury, both felonies. Now 62, Chung faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

"This case got filed and investigated before anybody knew about the problems with these Toyotas," said Richard Hutton, Chung's defense attorney.

-- Stuart Pfeifer, Carol J. Williams and Robert Faturechi Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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