In brief: Toyota deaths alleged to be 34

WASHINGTON – Complaints of deaths connected to sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles have surged in recent weeks, with the alleged death toll reaching 34 since 2000, according to new consumer data gathered by the government.

Complaints to a database maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the popular Toyota Prius hybrid grew by nearly 1,000 in just over a week.

On Monday, Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair said the NHTSA is quickly gathering information to help guide the government’s examination of sudden acceleration, the Prius braking system and other safety issues.

In the past three weeks, consumers have told the government about nine crashes involving 13 alleged deaths between 2005 and 2010 due to accelerator problems, according to an NHTSA database. The latest reports are in addition to previous complaints from consumers that alleged 21 deaths from 2000 to the end of last year.

Crash kills all five on small plane

WALL TOWNSHIP, N.J. – A small plane trying to land broke apart and tore through a snowy field next to a runway Monday afternoon, killing all five people aboard, including a teenager and a child. The crash was reported at 3:45 p.m. at Monmouth Executive Airport, about 35 miles east of Trenton, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jim Peters. The weather was overcast, but no precipitation was falling.

Clayton said the victims were three men, a teenager and a young child. The names of the victims were not immediately released, but Clayton said at least three were related. Two were from New Jersey, the other three from elsewhere, he said.

The plane was based at the airport and was returning to land when the crash occurred, Clayton said.

Starr named to lead Baylor

WACO, Texas – Baylor University named former Clinton White House nemesis Kenneth Starr its new president on Monday, saying the one-time independent prosecutor’s Christian ideals and experience heading a law school made him the ideal candidate to lead the world’s largest Baptist university.

Starr, whose investigation of the Whitewater land deal and Monica Lewinsky scandal led to Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives, has been dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., since 2004.

Senator healing after fall at home

CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. – Long-serving U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg fell at his home Monday night and was taken by ambulance to a hospital as a precaution, an aide said.

The 86-year-old Democrat, the first New Jersey senator to be elected to five terms, was conscious when he was taken from his Cliffside Park home, spokesman Caley Gray said.

Lautenberg was doing well at the hospital but was to stay there overnight for routine observation, Gray said.


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