— A Toyota Yaris crash that killed five people on New Year’s Eve in Ontario, California, will be looked at by federal safety investigators as a possible unintended acceleration event.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) says the Toyota Yaris was traveling east on the 10 Freeway at a high rate of speed and took the Vineyard Avenue exit.
The Yaris plowed into the side of a Toyota Solara traveling on Vineyard. Four California residents were killed in the Solara, including Monica Flores, 37, of Arcadia, Anthony Flores, 30, of Hemet, Jeffrey Willey, 29, of Huntington Beach and Matthew Pusateri, 29, of Mission Viejo.
The CHP said the Toyota Solara was so badly damaged that investigators couldn't tell if the backseat occupants had been wearing seat belts. The two occupants in the front had been belted in, all to no avail.
Killed in the Toyota Yaris was a 7-year-old boy, Michael Pineda. Three others in the Yaris were injured, including the 51-year-old female driver, a 12-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy.
The driver of the Yaris told authorities the car accelerated out of control and she couldn't get the car to slow down. Additionally, local reports indicate there were no skid marks at the crash scene.
Investigators don't believe alcohol or drugs played a part in the crash and said the driver of the Yaris was cooperating in the investigation. The CHP said its investigation will focus on all possible causes of the crash, including the possibility that a stuck accelerator is to blame.
Toyota has spent years plagued by complaints, investigations and lawsuits over alleged unintended acceleration events in Toyota and Lexus models.
As recently as August 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was responding to petitions to investigate alleged Toyota and Lexus acceleration problems.
And in May 2015, a jury found the automaker 60 percent liable in a deadly 2006 unintended acceleration crash and ruled Toyota would have to pay $11 million to the victims.