Investigators descend on runaway Prius

A Toyota Prius that sped out of control on a California freeway was towed to a dealership Tuesday while federal and company inspectors converged on the car to determine whether a stuck gas pedal was to blame.

EL CAJON, Calif. — A Toyota Prius that sped out of control on a California freeway was towed to a dealership Tuesday while federal and company inspectors converged on the car to determine whether a stuck gas pedal was to blame.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent two investigators to examine the car after Monday’s incident, said Olivia Alair, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, which oversees NHTSA. Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Brian Lyons said the automaker is sending three of its own technicians to investigate.

James Sikes, 61, of Jacumba, told authorities that the accelerator malfunctioned Monday as he drove his Prius on Interstate 8 in San Diego County. The car reached 150 km/h during the 20 minutes before a California Highway Patrol officer helped get the Prius driver to slow down and turn off the engine.

The CHP held the car overnight but it was towed to the dealership Tuesday, CHP Officer Brian Pennings said.

“There’s no collision, so our investigation’s done,” Pennings said.

The incident comes while Toyota is fighting fears over the safety of its vehicles, which had been revered for their safety and reliability.

It was about 19 km from where Sikes’ Prius started speeding where a deadly crash last year sparked scrutiny into the Japanese company’s vehicles.

CHP Officer Mark Saylor, his wife, her brother and the couple’s daughter died after their Lexus’ accelerator became trapped by a wrong-size floor mat on a freeway in La Mesa. The loaner car hit a sport utility vehicle and burst into flames.