Report: Loaned Car In Fatal Crash Had Previous Problems

An East County auto dealership may not have responded to a previous complaint about a vehicle that crashed and killed four family members, according to a San Diego County Sheriff's Department report obtained by 10News' media partner, The San Diego Union-Tribune.

According to the report, a man identified as 61-year-old Frank Bernard rented the 2009 Lexus ES 350 and complained to Bob Baker Lexus in El Cajon that the driver's side floor mat was interfering with the gas pedal and caused the car to suddenly accelerate.

However, the report stated the complaint was taken by a receptionist, and it is unclear if further action was taken after the complaint was received. In the report, Bernard told authorities the receptionist may not have understood his complaint.

The receptionist initially told authorities she did not remember Bernard's complaint, but two weeks later said she did recall taking Bernard's complaint to a detail specialist. The detail specialist told authorities he was not told about any problems with the vehicle, the Union-Tribune learned.

On Aug. 28, three days after Bernard's complaint, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor was driving the Lexus, with his wife Cleofe, their 13-year-old daughter Mahala and Saylor's brother-in-law Chris Lastrella. According to the sheriff's report, Lastrella called 911 and said the car's gas pedal became stuck and the brakes were not functioning properly. Witnesses told authorities the car was travelling on State Route 125 at a high rate of speed.

Authorities said the Lexus reached the intersection of SR-125 and Mission Gorge Road where it struck a Ford Explorer, careened off the road and flew 150 feet before it landed in the San Diego river basin and burst into flames.

The sheriff's report said investigators found the Lexus' acceleration was triggered when the vehicle's gas pedal became trapped by the floor mat. According to the report, the size of the mat was larger than the correct mat and did not leave enough space between the gas pedal and the floor board. And the plastic retaining clips were not secured allowing the mat to move forward.

An attorney for Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon declined to comment on the report, and told the Union-Tribune he had not read it.

Family members did not wish to respond to the report's findings, according to the Union-Tribune.