Date: Dec. 26, 2009
Victim: Monty Hardy, Sharon Ransom, Hadassah Vance, Wendy Akion
Location: Southlake, Texas
Model: 2008 Toyota Avalon
Details: On the day after Christmas, Monty Hardy and three members of his church were proselytizing in a Dallas suburb, spreading their faith door to door. The four Jehovah's Witnesses were traveling about 30 mph on a residential street in Hardy's Avalon when the car suddenly accelerated, raced through a stop sign, crashed through a fence, hit a tree and landed upside down in a small lake, according to a police report.
All four drowned.
Hardy and his wife Linda had recently removed the car's floor mats after receiving a recall notice from Toyota saying the mats had a propensity to cause the accelerator to stick, said Randy Roberts, a Tyler, Texas, attorney who's representing Linda Hardy in a planned lawsuit against the carmaker.
The couple had taken the car to a local dealership for repairs because of past problems with unintended acceleration, Roberts said.
Investigators removed a "black box" that records vehicle speed and gave it to Toyota for evaluation, Roberts said. Data removed from the box show that the car was traveling at 47 mph when it hit the fence and at 45.5 mph when it hit the tree, the lawyer said.
"It's an engine throttling at a stuck speed," Roberts said. "To me, it's pretty obvious that this was your classic acceleration problem. The man had a perfect driving record. He's out doing work for his church the morning after Christmas."
-- Stuart Pfeifer, Carol J. Williams and Robert Faturechi