Listen: Santee Car Crash 911 Call (opens in new QuickTime window)
Police release 911 tape in deadly SoCal crash
SANTEE, Calif. — Four people aboard a runaway car told each other to hold on and pray moments before their 911 call ended in screams and a fiery crash in San Diego County.
The police recording of the call details the disturbing last seconds of the Aug. 28 crash that killed a California Highway Patrol officer and three family members.
On the 50-second recording released Thursday, passenger Chris Lastrella tells the dispatcher that the accelerator is stuck. The dispatcher asks if they can turn the car off.
“We’re in trouble. There’s no brake,” Lastrella said.
Someone tells the others in the car to hold on and pray, then woman screams and the call ends.
Witnesses said the weaving Lexus topped speeds of 120 mph before launching off an embankment and crashed and burst into flames in Santee.
Officer Mark Saylor, the driver, his wife Cleofe, their daughter Mahala, 13, and Lastrella were killed. Lastrella was Cleofe Saylor’s brother.
A preliminary investigation indicated the accelerator may have become entrapped by a rubber floor mat, sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Hill said.
Hill did not know if Saylor tried to shift the vehicle into neutral or turn it off, which might have been impossible if the car was experiencing a malfunction.
The car was a loaner from Bob Baker Lexus El Cajon. Company vice president Dave Ezratty refrained from commenting until the investigation is completed.
National Highway Safety Transportation Administration investigators looked at the vehicle because of a 2007 recall involving after-market “all-weather” floor mats which could slip and catch on the gas pedal, agency spokesman Ray Tyson said, adding the probe will determine whether there may be another safety defect.