By Miriam Raftery
March 18, 2010 (San Diego’s East County) – A report released by the California Highway Patrol confirms that James Sikes, the driver who called 911 to report that his Prius accelerated out of control on I-8 in East County last week, appeared “panicked” during the incident. A CHP officer pulled alongside and offered advice via his vehicle’s P.A. system, eventually helping Sikes bring the vehicle to a stop unharmed. After the wild ride ended, CHP officer J. Neibert reported Sikes was “visibly shaken and breathing deeply” and appeared to be in shock, clearly shaking, his voice labored. He had the look of “someone really scared”, Neibert added. A Border Patrol Agent/emergency medical technician on the scene took vital signs and found Sikes blood pressure and pulse “very high.”
Sikes, who has previously undergone heart bypass surgery, was placed in an ambulance but was not transported to a hospital since his pulse and blood pressure eventually slowed down.
Some have speculated that Sikes, who is in debt , faked the incident in hopes of suing Toyota or drawing media attention. But the CHP report confirmed that Sikes initially did not want to speak to media, and agreed only after the CHP officer cautioned him that media would likely seek him out at home if he did not participate in a press conference. Sikes’ attorney has stated that his client has no intention of suing Toyota.
The report offered details on the officer’s close-hand observations, including new details such as that hazard lights were flashing and that the officer instructed Sikes to press both the brake pedal and emergency brake pedal simultaneously.
Toyota tests found nothing wrong with the vehicle’s operating systems, but suggested that Sikes alternately pressed the brake and accelerator pedal many times. The question arises whether Sikes, in a panicked state, may have pressed the accelerator instead of the emergency brake, along with the brake pedal. The CHP report confirmed that he could smell the burning brakes. Although millions of Toyotas have been recalled for sudden acceleration problems, the Prius is not among the vehicles recalled for sticking accelerator problems. (2004-2009 Prius models have had floormats recalled which can jam the accelerator pedal, however Sikes has said that was not the problem with his vehicle. The 2010 Prius has a recall for braking issues.)
The CHP report does not offer conclusive proof whether Sikes was truthful or not in his assertion that the accelerator pedal was stuck, but the CHP officer’s detailed description of Sikes’ physical condition would appear to lend weight to Sikes’ contention that he was caught up in a terrifying situation, rather than a scamster carrying out a plan to fake the whole scenario.
The full CHP report can be viewed here: http://www.10news.com/download/2010/0317/22870209.pdf.