Acceleration questioned in fatal crashes
Camry accelerates, crosses traffic, collides with car
Maria Cafua, 44
Car: 2002 Toyota Camry
Crash location: Interstate 93 at Exit 39
Crash details: Cafua was getting on the the interstate at 5:30 am when her Camry shot across three lanes of traffic and was broadsided by another car. The accident confounded family members, who called Cafua a good driver and said her route to work was one she obviously knew well. A family lawyer filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, stating, "It is believed that the Camry experienced an un-commanded acceleration." The accident left Cafua in a coma for several months before she died. While she lay in the hospital, son David said, he read a newspaper article about problems with Toyota vehicles and began to suspect that the car might have been at fault in the accident. "I can't see my mother losing control with the car," David Cafua said. "It kind of makes sense if the car wouldn't stop."
Camry shoots back into pedestrian
Leonard Rubin, 87, and Blossom Malick, 79
Car: 2003 Toyota Camry
Hometowns: Framingham (Rubin) and Boynton Beach, Fla. (Malick)
Crash location: Delray Beach, Fla.
Killed: Pedestrian Blossom Malick
Crash details: Rubin had just finished eating at 3G's Gourmet Deli and Restaurant and was pulling out of his parking space when his Camry "shot back," according to son-in-law Marvin Cohen, killing Malick, who was standing in the parking lot. Family members described Rubin, then 87, as sensible driver despite his age. Cohen reported Rubin's accident to NHTSA as a possible case of sudden unintended acceleration because, based on Rubin's driving habits, "I could not believe it was his fault." After the accident, Rubin, a retired kosher caterer who died in April 2008, had his car shipped back to Massachusetts. Too afraid to drive the vehicle, he traded it in for another Camry. NHTSA is investigating the accident, and has been in touch with Cohen.
Solara accelerates, crashes into trees
Blazej "Blaze" Ignatowicz, 22
Car: 2000 Toyota Solara
Hometown: New Britain, Conn.
Crash location: Stanley Street, at Lyle Road.
Crash details: Police told Barbara Green her son died after drinking four beers and crashing his speeding Solara. But she says Ignatowicz had a reputation for never letting any of his loved ones drive drunk. So when she heard that Toyota drivers were reporting that their cars could suddenly accelerate, Green said, "My heart stopped. I knew that that's what had happened." Green reported the accident to NHTSA, saying that her son's Solara "went into full speed" and hit some trees at close to 100 miles an hour. A crash report from New Britain police stated that his blood alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit. Green said she doubts the investigation's results, especially after seeing a statement from one of her son's friends in the police report, saying that the nearly 7-foot-tall Ignatowicz "appeared completely capable of safely operating his vehicle." She intends to fight to clear her son's name. "I kind of feel that I owe him that -- to his memory," she said.
Corolla collides head-on with motorcycle
Cynthia K. Moore, 19, and David Retzler, 41
Car: 2004 Toyota Corolla
Hometown: West Springfield
Crash location: Elm Street, near the Route 5 intersection, in West Springfield
Crash details: Moore was just minutes from home on a sunny summer evening last July when her Corolla collided head-on with a motorcycle, killing rider Retzler, TV news accounts showed. A witness said Moore was driving "fairly fast" even though she was in a residential area and approaching a traffic light where she needed to turn, according to a complaint filed with NHTSA by Moore's father, Alan, last month. He said his daughter had previously complained about the car's steering. News reports from media in West Springfield painted a different picture, reporting at the time that police charged Moore with motor vehicle homicide and driving under the influence. Moore is being tried in Springfield District Court.
Highlander crosses traffic, collides head-on with car
Stephen Lagakos, 63, wife Regina, 61, and mother Helen, 94; and Stephen Krause, 56
Car: 2002 Toyota Highlander
Hometown: Wellesley (Lagakos) and Keene, N.H. (Krause)
Crash location: Route 202 in Peterborough, N.H. , near the Jaffrey town line
Killed: All four
Crash details: Lagakos, a Harvard professor; his wife, Regina; and his mother, Helen - who was celebrating her 94th birthday - were driving in Peterborough near their family summer home in Rindge around 11:30 a.m. Lagakos was headed north when his Highlander passed a vehicle on the right by driving in the breakdown lane. The Highlander ultimately crossed the center line as it was coming around a curve, and collided head-on with a rented Chevrolet Krause was driving. The sport utility vehicle may have reached speeds of at least 85 miles per hour before the crash, according to police. All four people died.
Scion hits guardrail, overturns
Adam Palmer, 22, and Joseph Mele, 22
Car: 2007 Toyota Scion TC
Crash location: Interstate 495 North in Wrentham
Crash details: Mele faces charges, including motor vehicle homicide while operating under the influence, for being behind the wheel when his Toyota Scion struck a guardrail and rolled into a median, killing passenger and best friend, Palmer. According to documents filed in Norfolk Superior Court, the two were driving home to Mendon after spending the afternoon on the Cape, painting an apartment, and later, drinking with friends. Those friends argued that Mele was too drunk and shouldn't get behind the wheel, and later told police that Mele drove irresponsibly leading up the crash. Mele has told his lawyer, Chris LoConto, that the car was on cruise control at 70 m.p.h., and that he doesn't remember the crash. Mele's parents filed a report with NHTSA, questioning the cause of Mele's crash. "The idea behind making the complaint is, it's not necessarily the kid's fault. The government needs to look into this," Loconto said.
Camry accelerates, crosses traffic, collides with car
Car: 2008 Toyota Rav4
Crash location: Unspecified in complaint
Injured or killed: One dead
Crash details: An unknown woman died when her Rav4 "suddenly veered left and accelerated" into a tree, according to a complaint filed with NHTSA by a relative of the woman. The complaint went on to say that a witness stated that the woman was "driving normally" before the accident occurred. The Globe could confirm no other details.