Floor Mats Ruled Out in Fatal Southlake Crash: Police

Cause of wreck that killed four is still unclear

By Scott Gordon
|  Tuesday, Jan 5, 2010  |  Updated 10:15 PM CDT
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Floor Mats Ruled Out in Fatal Southlake Crash: Police

NBCDFW.com

Four people in a Toyota Avalon drowned when the car went off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond.

Recalled Toyota floor mats had nothing to do with a car crash that killed four people in Southlake the day after Christmas, police said Tuesday.

Four people in a Toyota Avalon drowned when the car went off the road, through a fence and landed upside down in a pond.

The four, all Jehovah's Witnesses, were doing religious work at the time.

The car was one of more than four million recalled by Toyota, after federal safety regulators found a problem with the car suddenly accelerating.

The automaker said the problem is caused by the floor mat pushing against the gas pedal.

Southlake police said the floor mat in the car that crashed was found in the trunk and was not inside the vehicle.

 "That's the thing we've been able to rule out pretty much for sure,” said Lt. Ben Brown.

Police said there are many other possible causes, including human error or, as some safety experts have suggested, another defect that causes rapid acceleration.

"We can't really rule that out,” Brown said. “The investigators are looking at everything they can.”

Police identified the driver as Monty Hardy, 56, of Southlake. The passengers were Wendy Akion, 38, of Irving; Sharon Ransom, 56, of Grapevine; and Hadassah Vance, 35, of Euless.

An autopsy found Hardy died from drowning and detected no heart problems or other medical condition, police said. The road was dry at the time of the accident.

A Toyota spokesman, John Hansen, said he could not speculate on what went wrong.

He acknowledged the floor mats in some models, including the one that crashed in Southlake, can get wedged near the gas pedal, causing rapid acceleration.

“There has been speculation there are other causes of unintended acceleration,” Hansen said. “Our position is we have been able to find no other cause.”

Toyota’s solution is to replace the mat and the floor cushion under the carpeting and to shorten the pedal, he said.

The company has urged owners of recalled models to remove the floor mats and put them in the trunk until they can go to a dealer to fix the problem.

Get More: See what models are included in the recall.

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