PAYSON, Ariz. - An Arizona family is speaking out about a horrific crash that claimed the life of their 17-year-old daughter.
While no one knows for sure what caused the accident, our Scripps station in Phoenix, KNXV, uncovered a risk most owners would never see and that could be hiding in countless other cars.
DEADLY JANUARY CRASH
Seventeen-year-old Saige Bloom was driving when she lost control of her vehicle on a Payson roadway.
Her mother was following behind her and desperately called 911 looking for help.
"She cannot stop. We're coming up to a red light and I don't know what to do for her," the mother frantically told the dispatcher.
Shortly after that call, Saige hit another car and rolled three times. Hours later, Saige died of her injuries in a hospital bed.
That was in January. Now, KNXV has discovered new information about the model of car Saige was driving when she lost control -- information involving repair instructions sent to dealers, but not owners.
It raises the question that tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of cars on the road could have had an incorrect repair, including the car Saige was driving.
BASKETBALL, CHURCH AND FAMILY
Ryan Bloom beams as he talks about his daughter Saige. It's been just a few months since she died.
"I just sit and think, I wish I could see her again," Bloom said.
Ryan and his wife Jamie have three kids; Saige was their oldest.
Bloom said his daughter loved going to church and to her youth group. She cared for people, he said, especially her family. Saige was a star on the Payson High basketball team and Bloom remembers her talking about going to prom in the spring.
After graduation, she wanted to enroll at Northern Arizona University and was looking for a car that could handle the snow.
Since her grandmother offered to buy, Saige searched and quickly found her car: a white 2002 Ford Escape.
Her dad checked it out and okayed the car.
"She was like thank you daddy, thank you, thank you." Bloom pauses as tears fill his eyes. "That kind of hurts, you know?"
SAIGE'S FIRST AND LAST DRIVE
On January 27th, Saige was driving her new Escape to her home in Payson for the first time. She was following her mother as they drove north.
But near Payson, something went terribly wrong.
"Oh my God, my God, what do I do with her?" Jamie Bloom asked when she called 911 for help.
She was watching as Saige drove ahead of her, speeding through town. The haunting 911 tapes reveal what happened next.
"She was pushing on the brakes. I can smell it burning and she cannot stop," her mother told the dispatcher on the other end of the line.
"Oh my God! She's in a wreck! She's in a wreck!"
Police reports show Saige was traveling at high speeds through a busy area of Payson. She was weaving in and out of traffic, according to the reports.
Jamie called her husband.
"I didn't expect the blood curdling screams over the phone," Bloom remembered. "Jaime was freaking out."
Ryan immediately got in his car and drove toward the accident.
"You know, when time stops and you just say 'God let her be okay,'" Bloom said. "That's what I kept telling myself the whole time."
Police reports say Saige's SUV was weaving through traffic at rush hour that day.
Expert advice: What to do if your car won't stop
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 lie on the street, bleeding and "struggling to breathe," the report said, until emergency crews took her to the hospital where she died.
THE POLICE INVESTIGATION
Payson police took KNXV to the Escape impounded in their lot, three months after the accident.
The SUV sits in a corner, much of it in pieces. It will be covered with a tarp until tests are completed and the Escape can be released to the family and to the automaker, Ford Motor Company.
Police reports show the car's accelerator was "all the way down to the floor," when the car was inspected after the accident.
Officers also found that the console next to the accelerator pedal had "scratch marks in the plastic," that would "be consistent without 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 must have "used some force to create those marks."
The Blooms' attorney Bob Boatman believes Saige was, "kicking the pedal trying to dislodge it in her mind."
The family is considering filing a lawsuit against Ford.
KNXV: SAFETY RECALL AND QUESTIONS ABOUT THE REPAIR
Ford won't comment specifically about Saige's accident, and until the car is released and inspected, no one knows what caused it.
But KNXV did find a safety recall involving the accelerator cable on 2002-2004 Ford Escapes -- including the one Saige drove that day.
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."
But, 10 months later, Ford sent out an update to that repair to dealers -- 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 by that time, the majority of the Escapes affected -- 319,000 out of 470,000 -- had already been repaired.
Those owners had their SUVs repaired for the recall 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.
CALL FOR MORE ACTION
That worries Clarence Ditlow, an auto safety advocate with the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, D.C.
"Anyone who sees this would say 'Oh, there's a problem here,'" he said. "If you were one of those nearly 300,000 owners, you may have gotten a bad repair and your life is at stake."
In a statement to KNXV, Ford said it's "committed to informing our customers when any issues arise involving vehicle safety." Ford didn't explain how they discovered the incorrect repairs, but said the corrected repair bulletin only went to dealers.
Ford also says it "can't comment on a specific accident without knowing all the details behind it."
Read Ford Motor Company's full statement to KNXV
Ditlow says Ford should have issued a second recall but Ford would not comment on why that didn't happen.
Ditlow also blames the government agency responsible for investigating safety defects in motor vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for not forcing a second recall.
In fact, he says depending on the outcome of the investigation into Saige's accident, the Center plans to file a petition pushing NHTSA for a second recall on that model of Ford Escapes.
NHTSA told KNXV that it is "aware of the crash that occurred in Payson, Arizona in January" and said that they "are monitoring the issue and will take action as warranted."
Read NHTSA's full statement to KNXV
LIFE WITHOUT SAIGE
While Ford and Saige's family wait for her car to be released, Ryan tries to concentrate on the positives.
He said Saige was somehow able to avoid injuring anyone else as her car sped out of control. And he told us that her organs were donated to five other people, giving them new life.
"I have all her pictures sitting on the dresser," he said, "every time I walk into the room, just staring at her beautiful smile."
How to search for all safety recall documents involving YOUR car (you can also watch step-by-step instructions in the video attached above)
Carfax offers a free recall check that will tell you if your specific vehicle has an open recall, not just what recalls were issued for a year/make/model. But, there is a cost involved if you want your vehicle's full Carfax report.