Toyota Recall Sparks Theories On Cause Of Santee Crash

CHP Officer Mark Saylor, 3 Family Members Killed In Aug. Crash

A week before family members of California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Saylor were scheduled to testify in congressional hearings, there was a shift in theories involving a horrific high-speed crash in Santee.

Last August, moments after a frantic 911 call in which family members reported a stuck accelerator, a Lexus loaned by a local dealership drove off State Route 125 and burst into flames, killing Saylor, his wife, daughter and brother-in-law.

A sheriff's investigation pointed to a stuck floor mat, citing a previous complaint involving the same Lexus vehicle.

Six months later, the Saylor family's attorney said that they're no longer convinced that the floor mat was the cause.

Lawyers John Gomez and Tim Pestotnik, who represent the Saylor family, told 10News because little was left of the car, the exact defect may never be pinpointed.

Gomez said, "It's really because of everything we're learning on a daily basis with the recall and the components being investigated which could be relevant in our own investigation."

"We believe the story has changed given the number of recalls. If we stopped at floor mats, we may miss the real cause and contribute to further the sense of security people may have," added Pestotnik.

Pestotnik said they have no specific evidence pointing to another cause, but they'll keep a close watch on the federal investigation into Toyota's electronics as well as the congressional hearings.

"The families are very private … it will be a difficult process for them," Pestotnik said.

10News has confirmed two members of the Saylor family will testify in the hearings.

Saylor's father will fly from Union, Mo., and the mother of Saylor's wife will fly from the Bay Area. Gomez and Pestotnik will be there to lend their support.

Gomez said, "They won’t have any muzzles on them; they’ll be able to say whatever they feel and think."

Pestotnik said, "I think their message to the congress is, 'Hey, let’s take this seriously. Let’s get at the truth … and let's make sure this never happens again.'"

This message will also eventually be delivered in the courts, as the lawyers expect to file a civil suit some time in the next few months.

There are actually three committees holding hearings on Toyota.

Two of the hearings are next week, with a third scheduled for March 2.