Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Toyota recall: a personal pit-in-my-stomach story

Tom’s father, Pete -- “Papa” to our kids -- was killed in a single-car accident in November, 2001. 


Pete (“Papa”), his grandson and namesake, Peter, and his son, Tom (1987)

The car was a Toyota Avalon, a 2000 or 2001 model, driven on a clear day and on an open road by Tom’s mother as they headed from San Marcos, California to their desert house in Scottsdale, Arizona.  No one knows exactly what happened, but we do know that Pete and Rose were driving in the left lane when something (what?) caused Rose to lose control and the car flipped multiple times before coming to a stop at the side of the road.  Pete, who had been napping in the passenger seat (and was, of course, wearing a seat belt)died on the scene of head injuries.  Rose was airlifted to San Diego, where she remained in the hospital for a few days. 

For the past nine years, Rose has talked about a “racing engine,” remembering that even after the car came to a stop, the engine remained revving.  I’d assumed that she was confused and that the traumatic circumstances (she was told at the scene by a paramedic that her husband was dead) had impacted her memory. 

But now? 

In light of the Toyota recall, I’m not sure Rose was remembering things wrong at all.  Could it be that, on this open road in clear weather, the accelerator did stick?  Could it be that her memory is correct and that this accident that killed our beloved father and Papa could have been avoided?

Scan229, March 04, 2006

Papa and Elisabeth, 1985

Every time I think about it, I feel socked in the gut and helpless.  I am an action-oriented project manager, but this petrifies and paralyzes me – and I can only imagine how it makes Tom and his mother and siblings feel!

NanaPapaKatAlex Nana and Papa with Aleks and Kat, 1990


Tom and his parents, 2000

Papa was a quiet and gentle soul, someone who loved deeply and appreciated life fully.  We miss him tremendously -- even now, nine years after his death.  We can never bring him back, but perhaps some closure can be brought to his still guilt-ridden and still  distraught widow who continues to blame herself for Papa’s death.

Sniders 13 1999

Papa surrounded by his loving family, 1999

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Lorrene said...

Just this past Saturday, my son's girlfriend was coming home after a short trip near Seattle. She had just entered our city and suddenly the engine began to rev up and took off like crazy. It nearly scared her todeath. She was nearing an intersection. She used the brake and emergency brake and burned rubber for a half block. She finally got it stopped. The cruise control had been out of order so she didn't use it, but it must have kicked on because my son disconnected it and when he turned the car on it was normal again. The car is a 2002 Buick. Maybe if one has a cruise control that is not working they should have it disconnected. He thinks that is what caused it. Maybe we should have them disconnected anyway, just in case. It's becoming a scary world.

Lynn said...

What a tragic story, Carol. I'm so sorry for your family's loss. He looks like a wonderful husband, dad & grandpa. John & I just made that very same drive from Scottsdale to southern CA a week ago, on the way back home. As we approached the AZ/CA border on I-10 at Quartzsite, AZ, we saw the emergency lights of a couple of fire engines and police cars. A small SUV (didn't see the make) was over on the side of the road flipped on its roof which was crushed flat. No other cars involved, it was late morning and the weather was perfect, there wasn't even much traffic. As we slowed to get around the emergency vehicles, we saw that there were 3 blankets covering shapes on the ground next to the car. It looked very bad--two of the shapes appeared small enough to be children. I thought about that tragic accident all the way home and wondered what may have caused it.


Goofball said...

wow ....that really does make you wonder about the Toyota.

But the thing is you'll never know

Margaret said...

I've read that many Toyota problems were covered up, so it's very possible that it caused the crash. Still it's impossible to know for sure, and that would drive me crazy. Most things can drive me crazy. He sounds like a wonderful man--what a tragic loss.

Wendy said...

This is tragic! I'm so sorry for your family's loss. He sounded like a wonderful man.

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