PHOENIX - NEW information: Ford speaks after Arizona crash story
A major automaker is under fire following a 17-year-old girl's death in a 2002 Ford Escape last January.
In May, the ABC15 Investigators at our sister station, KNXV in Phoenix, uncovered a Ford document that has raised questions about a potential safety risk that could involve hundreds of thousands of Escapes.
Now, we have new information about what may have led to the tragic accident in Payson, Ariz., – and what the government could do to warn consumers.
DEADLY ARIZONA CRASH
Saige Bloom’s last act was to avoid hurting anyone else as her 2002 Ford Escape accelerated out of control.
Police reports and eyewitnesses describe how she wove through traffic, narrowly missing other drivers – until she couldn’t.
Her SUV hit another car, rolled three times and Saige was thrown from the vehicle. She died in a hospital hours later.
Her mother, Jamie Bloom, was following Saige as she drove the car for the first time home to Payson. Jamie talked to her daughter, then called 911.
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God! What do I do with her?” she frantically asked the 911 operator. “We're coming up to a red light and I don't know what to do for her because she cannot stop!”
“She was pushing on the brakes. I can smell it burning and she cannot stop,” Jamie told the dispatcher.
Police reports show the car's accelerator was "all the way down to the floor" after the accident.
Officers also found that the console next to the accelerator pedal had "scratch marks in the plastic," that “would be consistent with someone slamming their foot on the gas pedal," the report said.
The report further states that Saige "had Nike tennis shoes on" and that “she would have had to use some force to create those marks."
The Bloom's attorney, Bob Boatman, believes Saige was, "kicking the pedal, trying to dislodge it, in her mind."
After clearing the intersection of Highways 87 and 260 and "narrowly [passing] through traffic" at the next intersection, police reports show the Escape hit a grey sedan and flipped three times.
Saige was ejected from the car, where she lay on the street, bleeding and "struggling to breathe," the report said, until emergency crews took her to the hospital where she died.
"You know, when time stops and you just say 'God let her be okay,' "Saige’s father, Ryan Bloom said, "that's what I kept telling myself the whole time."
"I just sit and think, I wish I could see her again," he said.
A POSSIBLE INCORRECT REPAIR
Despite repeated requests by ABC15, Ford won’t comment specifically on the accident.
The company sent the ABC15 Investigators a statement in response to an earlier ABC15 report in May.
Read Ford's full statement to the ABC15 Investigators below.
But the ABC15 Investigators discovered that Ford had issued a safety recall involving the accelerator cable on 2002-2004 Escapes – including the one Saige was driving the day she died.
In December 2004, Ford sent a recall notice to Escape owners, stating that the problem could cause "elevated engine speeds" and even a "vehicle crash."
Ten months later, Ford sent out an update to that repair to dealers -- but not Ford owners.
In the documents sent to dealers, Ford writes that the reason for the update is "to inform dealers that updated illustrations and a warning have been added to the technical instructions…to help prevent damage to the speed control cable while performing the accelerator cable replacement procedure."
One attachment says "Caution" and shows a "CORRECT" and two "INCORRECT" illustrations involving removing the accelerator cable.
The update went to dealers in October 2005, 10 months after the recall was first announced. Records show that by that time, more than 300,000 of the affected Escapes had already been repaired.
Those owners had their SUVs repaired without the new warning and instructions from Ford.
Records show the Escape Saige Bloom drove to her death also had an accelerator cable recall repair before the new instructions went to dealers.
A POSSIBLE EXPLANATION
If repaired incorrectly, the document shows that mechanics could create “damage to the throttle body cam…if the throttle body cam is rotated by lifting up on the speed control cable.”
Ford’s updated repair warns against technicians lifting up on that speed control cable while making the repair. According to Bill Williams, an expert hired by the Bloom’s attorney, an incorrect repair could cause the plastic cover on it to break and the cable to become loose.
He said if a driver accelerates fast enough, that loose cable can stick under a rib in the engine cover above it. That could leave the throttle open – and the car traveling at very high speeds.
Bloom attorney Bob Boatman and Williams say what Ford warned its dealers against in the repair update -- damage to the speed control cable -- is exactly what they say they found in the Escape Saige Bloom was driving.
In a police impound lot in Payson, lawyers and