After inspecting the runaway Ford Escape in which Payson teen Saige Bloom died, the Ford Motor Company announced Wednesday that it is recalling 424,000 vehicles to fix an issue with the speed control system.
The 2001-2006 and 2008 Mazda Tribute sport-utility vehicles are also being recalled for similar concerns, since the vehicles are mechanically similar.
Seventeen-year-old Bloom died in January when her newly purchased 2002 Ford Escape accelerated out of control through afternoon traffic in Payson. It was Bloom’s first time driving the vehicle, a car she had helped pay for by working at a local ice cream shop.
As she approached Payson, Bloom reportedly called her mother, who was driving behind her, and said she could not slow down the SUV.
Bloom’s mother watched in horror as her daughter weaved through traffic, narrowly missing several motorists. The SUV eventually clipped one vehicle loaded with children as Bloom veered to avoid rear-ending the other car. Her SUV rolled several times.
Marks near the gas pedal led investigators to believe Bloom tried desperately to stop the vehicle.
“There were scuff marks from a shoe there on the plastic very near the accelerator, which would be uncommon unless someone was in a panic situation and trying everything they could to get that to release,” said Police Chief Don Engler.
Ford says in the recall that inadequate clearance between the engine cover and a speed control cable can cause the throttle to get stuck open when the gas pedal is fully or almost-fully depressed.
The recall includes 2001 through 2004 Ford Escapes with 3.0-liter V6 engines and speed control.
Ford inspected Bloom’s Escape June 20, after which it began an engineering review that resulted in the recall.
On July 17, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began its own investigation into the issue.
The Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a nonprofit consumer group, encouraged the NHTSA to continue its investigation because it says Ford is trying to cover up a larger issue.
The CAS claims Ford needs to replace a defective cruise control cable. Raising the engine cover near the cruise control cable is not the correct fix, said the group.
“Replacing the defective cruise control cable eliminates the defect and the need for more clearance,” said CAS attorney Michael Brooks in a letter to the NHTSA.
“Ford’s defect description and remedy have one purpose, and one purpose only, to avoid a civil penalty being imposed by NHTSA for failing to do a timely recall in 2005 when Ford discovered the cruise control cable guide would break and the cable connector would jam against the engine cover resulting in a stuck throttle.”
The NHTSA says there have been 68 complaints relating to unattended acceleration in the Escape, including 13 accidents, nine injuries and Bloom’s death.
This is the third recall for the popular Escape this month. Ford recalled 11,500 of its 2013 Escapes with 1.6-liter engines after it found the fuel lines can crack and leak. Ford also recalled 10,000 2013 models to fix carpet that could obstruct braking.
Ford says if a vehicle’s throttle gets stuck, motorists should “firmly and steadily apply the brakes, without pumping the brake pedal, shift to neutral, steer the vehicle to a safe location, shut the engine off after the vehicle is safely stopped and place the transmission in park.”
For more information on the recall, call (866) 436-7332 or contact a local Ford, Lincoln or Mazda dealer.
The PPD returned Bloom’s Escape to her family a month ago, Engler said.