Date: March 9, 2009

Victim: Jose Madrigal

Location: Downey

Model: 2009 Toyota Corolla

Details: Jose Madrigal, a Mexican immigrant and devoted Catholic, made the sign of the cross each time he took a drive.

"My father was not very comfortable getting in a car," Adelina Aguilera, his daughter, said recently.

On March 9, 2009, Madrigal was a passenger in a 2009 Corolla driven by his wife of 50 years, Adelina Madrigal.

His wife said she was driving on Florence Avenue when the car suddenly accelerated, even as she applied pressure to the brakes. Trying to avoid approaching cars, she swerved onto the wrong side of the road, struck a car and then crashed into a concrete wall beneath the 605 Freeway.

Jose Madrigal, 89, was critically injured. He died March 25 from internal injuries.

"My dad was in wonderful health. He still mowed the lawn, had a great appetite, was very active," Aguilar said. "I expected to have my father around for a long, long time."

Downey Police Officer Sean Penrose did not believe Adelina Madrigal's account of the accident. He issued the 71-year-old woman a ticket for speeding and wrote in his report that she must have applied the gas pedal instead of the brakes.

On April 15, three weeks after her husband's death, she paid a fine for speeding and the case was closed, according to Department of Motor Vehicles records. It was the first ticket Madrigal ever received, her daughter said.

In January, Toyota issued a recall notice for several of its models, including the 2009 Corolla, saying a gas-pedal defect could cause the vehicle to unexpectedly accelerate.

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