NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
ROCKWALL -– A North Texas family is trying to figure out why their teenage son’s Hyundai suddenly seemed to accelerate out of control.
The car raced along Texas highways for more than an hour at speeds of 100 miles per hour, while the 16-year-old driver pleaded with 911 dispatchers for help.
“Please, just do anything,” Elez Lushaj begged dispatchers in recordings obtained by News 8.
Emergency operators are heard on the calls frantically trying to find a solution. They urge the teenager - without success - to try different ways to bring the 2011 Hyundai Elantra under control, including putting it in neutral, or turning off the ignition.
“It won’t go in neutral. He can’t turn it off. The brake pedal won’t work,” a dispatcher is heard saying on the recording.
“I am calling a Hyundai dealership to see if they have any tips," she continues to tell the teenager, "because I have looked online and there’s nothing.”
It appears she never was able to connect with a dealership.
Lushaj told police his car first started accelerating on Highway 183 in Bedford Sunday morning on December 2. He continued driving at excessive speeds on highways and interstates for nearly 120 miles. 911 dispatchers alerted police officers and county deputies, who struggled to keep pace with the speeding sedan.
“It took me a while,” said Rockwall County Deputy Tim Williamson. “I probably got above 130 [miles per hour] trying to catch him… one of the lieutenants said we passed him at 123 [mph], and he knew they couldn’t catch up to us.”
Deputy Williamson’s dashboard camera captured much of the pursuit as he followed Lushaj traveling east on Interstate 30, away from the congested suburbs of Dallas. At times, the video shows the teen swerving onto the shoulder to avoid hitting cars.
“He just stayed right on the highway -- never tried to get off, never tried to do anything evasive,” Williamson said. “It’s pretty crazy. Being in his shoes, he did a good job driving.”
Williamson activated his lights and blared his sirens to clear traffic ahead of Lushaj. Unsure what else to do, he hoped the teen’s car would eventually run out of gas.
“When I passed him, he was kind of just sitting there, holding the steering wheel with both hands,” the deputy said. “Not looking left. Not looking right… if we had a long, open stretch of highway, he was pretty much in the left lane.”
Despite officers’ efforts to help, the teenager eventually lost control when a semi pulled in front of him outside of Sulphur Springs. The car flipped four times before stopping on its side along the highway.
Lushaj had several broken bones, but was talking when Williamson ran up to the vehicle.
“He had a little bit of blood, but other than that, he was in real good shape for having wrecked out at that speed,” he said.
Hyundai said it can’t explain what may have caused the car to suddenly accelerate, but called it “extremely unlikely for simultaneous and spontaneous total system failures for the brakes, accelerator and transmission to occur at the same time,” in an e-mail written by company spokesman Jim Trainor to News 8.
“We have heard nothing on this, which is extremely odd for a legitimate complaint,” he added. “We would like to speak with the customer and look into this.”
The teen’s father called the incident a “nightmare” and said his son will likely have permanent damage from the wreck. The Lushajs declined further comment, based on advice from their attorney, who said he is considering litigation.
In May, a Hyundai Sonata in Korea was captured on dashboard camera video speeding through crowded city streets at 80 mph before crashing. The Korean government said it planned to investigate if sudden acceleration was at fault.
That month, Hyundai announced that it would start installing brake override systems in all of its cars. The device is designed to stop sudden acceleration incidents. The Korean automaker said in a news release at the time it was making the move to avoid “the remote possibility” that a car would “accelerate contrary to driver input.”
Toyota faced enormous scrutiny after reports surfaced of its cars mysteriously speeding out of control. Since 2009, Toyota has recalled millions of its vehicles after allegations of sudden acceleration caused by sticking gas pedals or misplaced floor mats.