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Local Crash Victims React To Toyota’s $1.2 Billion Penalty

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WBZ-TV's Beth Germano Beth Germano
Emmy award-winning Beth Germano is a general assignment reporter fo...
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WILMINGTON (CBS) – A local man says he is finally getting some closure, more than ten years after his mother was killed in a crash. David Cafua says he still spends hours thinking about the traffic accident that claimed the life of his mother Maria. He’s been trying to explain how she suddenly shot across three lanes of traffic on I-93 in Wilmington in her Toyota Camry.

Maria Cafua’s car was broadsided by another vehicle, and she died after eight months in a coma. It was the route she took to work every morning. “I couldn’t see her losing control or speeding. I automatically assumed something had to be wrong with the car,” he told WBZ-TV.

But his theory couldn’t be proven. Now, David is convinced Toyota’s safety problem with sudden acceleration was to blame, and he’s frustrated the car company took so long to admit it.

“All these years later they’re finally agreeing to the government that something was wrong,” he said after learning that Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion to resolve a criminal probe into safety issues.

The settlement between the Justice Department and Toyota includes an admission that it misled American consumers about two different problems that caused cars to accelerate even as drivers tried to slow them down.

The family filed a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that was never resolved. David Cahua says his family didn’t have means to take on Toyota in lawsuit that would drag on for years.

“The little guy never wins against the big guy. I’m glad the government did something to take action and make them accountable for what they did wrong,” he said.

Cafua says he thinks of his mother every day, and now believes he has the answer he’s been searching for. What he’ll get from the Toyota settlement is satisfaction. “It kind of closes some open doors that made me think a lot about it,” he said.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports

John and Diane Biello count themselves among Toyota’s victims who say the company has yet to own up to the problems with its electrical systems as well.

The Rehoboth couple totaled their 2009 Tacoma pickup truck on 95 South in Attleboro last June. Mr. Biello says when he went to take the vehicle out of cruise control as he approached his exit, it sped up. Even with both feet on the brake, he explains, it wouldn’t slow down.

The truck eventually slammed into a guardrail and flipped onto its side.

“We were very, very lucky. We ended up with absolutely minor, minor problems,” he says. “We walked away from this and other people die, [are] seriously injured, crippled for the rest of their lives and Toyota goes merrily on their way.”

He and his wife believe the truck’s electronics were to blame but, they say, the company won’t admit fault.

Both say they were glad to hear about the massive settlement. But they’d be happier if Toyota owners could share in the money.

“The government is going to get some money, but the people who were involved in these accidents don’t get anything,” Mrs. Biello explains. “It’s just not right. Toyota should make reparations to the people who have undergone this. The government is getting reparations because they lied to them; how about the people who have to go through this? Something should be done for them.”

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong and Beth Germano contributed to this report.

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