Widow wants to know if Toyota problem killed her husband

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 19, 2010 at 6:15 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 19 at 6:17 PM

SEATTLE - "He drove like a grandpa. If he went over the speed limit, it was one or two miles an hour. He was incredibly careful". That's the way Karen Mueller describes her late husband, Terry, and his driving habits.

Terry was killed in a one-car crash on State Route 509 in SeaTac more than a year ago. It was a Toyota Prius.

Witnesses say Terry was speeding and driving erratically. They say he hit a guardrail but kept going at 80 or 90 mph. Nearly a mile down the road after he hit the guardrail, he went off the highway and hit a tree.

"He was such a careful driver. He wasn't a crazy driver. None of it ever made sense", says a tearful Karen.

The medical examiner found no extenuating medical circumstances - no signs of heart attack or stroke - that could have caused the behavior.

When Karen started seeing news stories about sudden acceleration problems with Toyotas, it started to come together. Now, she just wants to know exactly what happened and she has hired Seattle Attorneys Allen Ressler and Tim Tesh to help her.

So far, the Washington State Patrol has declined to re-open its investigation of the crash and Toyota has not responded to requests for help reading the encrypted data in the vehicle's on-board data recorders. If those "black boxes" can be salvaged and the data extracted, it could show what was happening in the car's electronics during that frantic and fateful few seconds on Highway 509.

Karen hasn't filed suit against Toyota yet, but she likely will soon, joining others with similar complaints who have sued in federal court. As we hear so often in cases like this, she says it isn't about the money. It’s about knowing, finally, what happened to her husband.

"I know that he died instantly and he didn't suffer, but I'm incredibly angry sometimes that I didn't get to say goodbye," said Karen.

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