CHP Officer, Family Killed in Crash

A 911 call made minutes before the accident said the car's accelerator was stuck

By Rory Devine, Mari Payton and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009  |  Updated 11:45 AM PDT
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Saylor Family Killed in Lexus Accident

An image taken from the air shows the vehicle resting in the brush just off the road.

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Friends ID CHP Officer, Family as Crash Victims

Four people died Friday when a Lexus sedan lost control on the highway, crashed near Mission Gorge Road in Santee and burst into flames.

Friends ID CHP Officer, Family as Crash Victims

Four people died Friday when a Lexus sedan lost control on the highway, crashed near Mission Gorge Road in Santee and burst into flames.
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Four people died Friday when a Lexus sedan lost control on the highway, crashed near Mission Gorge Road in Santee and burst into flames.

The victims include veteran CHP officer Mark Saylor, 45, his wife Cleofe Lastrella Saylor, 45, his brother-in-law Chris Lastrella,38, and his daughter Mahala, 13.

CHP investigators said they received a 911 call before 7 p.m. August 28 Cleofe Saylor saying their car’s accelerator was stuck.

Witnesses reported seeing a Lexus heading northbound on 125 weaving through traffic at a high rate of speed. CHP officials said the driver tried to make a left turn when the freeway ended at Mission Gorge Road, but he was going too fast and struck a Ford Explorer.

The Lexus then broke through a fence and struck a dirt embankment, catapulting it through the air more than 100 feet. The vehicle landed in dense vegetation near a riverbed.

"The car ended up on its wheels and caught on fire, which caused a small brush fire," officer Brian Pennings said Sunday.

Firefighters quickly knocked down the flames and made the grim discovery. "All four bodies were still in the vehicle, none were ejected," said Santee Fire Chief Mike Rottenberg.

Phillip Pretty, 52 of Santee was in the Ford Explorer. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance Friday with moderate injuries.

All of the victims died from blunt force trauma either to the head or torso. The county's medical examiner declared all deaths as the result of an accident.

Saylor was driving the car according to investigators. The car was a loaner from Bob Baker Lexus in El Cajon where Saylor's personal Lexus was being serviced. A company spokesperson said everyone was "shocked" when a deputy told them about the crash. Their "hearts go out to the families" but they did not want to comment on the cause of the crash saying they don't know what happened and don't want to speculate.

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