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Feds probe Toyota Prius crash in NYC suburb

Feds probe Toyota Prius crash in NYC suburb

HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) — Federal safety regulators are gathering information after a suburban New York driver told police that a Toyota Prius accelerated on its own, then lurched down a driveway, across a road and into a stone wall.

The report comes amid heightened attention surrounding unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles and a recall involving more than 8 million vehicles to address gas pedals that can become sticky or trapped under floor mats.

The Department of Transportation is looking into the New York crash, spokeswoman Olivia Alair said Wednesday.

Capt. Anthony Marraccini of the police department in Harrison, north of New York City, said that Toyota wants to collect the Prius involved in the crash but that his department is "not prepared to release it just yet."

Police believe the vehicle was on the recall list for the sticky accelerator problem, but they had no immediate proof that this one had the problem, Marraccini said. The vehicle had been serviced by Toyota for the floor mat problem, he said.

A 56-year-old housekeeper was in forward gear in the 2005 Prius heading down a curving driveway, several hundred feet long with a putting green next to it, when the accident happened. He said she was lucky not to collide with traffic as the car crossed a street.

The driver escaped serious injury even though the impact "was pretty substantial," Marraccini said. It wasn't clear how fast the car was going.

The air bags deployed when the car hit the stone wall of the estate across the street. On Wednesday, five boulders and smaller filler stones were strewn about, some of them 10 feet from the wall. Broken glass, plastic headlight pieces and metal that looked like part of a window frame were nearby.

The car's owner, Joseph Leff, declined to identify the housekeeper or say whether she was back at work.

"She's a wonderful driver," Leff said. "It's not her fault. It's the car."

Toyota is fighting fears that the crashes are caused by faulty electronics rather than by mechanical problems. Representatives at the company's U.S. sales headquarters in Torrance, Calif., did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

The car was in a police parking lot on Wednesday. The front end was severely pushed in, the hood was buckled and the front bumper was broken. Leff said he had called Toyota but had not heard back yet.

On Monday, California police stopped a runaway 2008 Prius going nearly 95 mph after the driver said the pedal jammed. Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating.

All 2004-2009 Priuses are covered by a recall Toyota announced in October over floor-mat entrapment. Toyota has advised drivers of the Prius and other affected vehicles to take out any removable driver's floor mat until they are repaired.


AP Auto Writer Dan Strumpf in New York contributed to this report.


Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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