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Metro Atlanta first responder intentionally crashes car after accelerator gets stuck, survives

With his 2006 GT Mustang clocking 110 mph, James Bennefield decided to crashed the car in an empty parking lot, flipping it five times.

NEWNAN, Ga. — An off-duty first responder survived a terrifying crash after his accelerator got stuck while driving in Newnan. 

On Christmas Eve, James Bennefield was traveling in his 2006 GT Mustang when the car's accelerator got stuck. 

He tried pressing the brake, shifting the gears and he even tried pulling the key out of the ignition, but nothing worked. When he knew he wouldn't be able to stop the car, Bennefield realized he would have to crash. 

"It was terrifying. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life," Bennefield said.

With the mustang clocking 110 mph, Bennefield crashed the car in an empty parking lot near Bullsboro Road and Coweta Crossing. 

The car flipped five times. Miraculously, he survived with just an injured lung and dislocated thumb. He was back at his job six days later. Bennefield watched as first responders freed him from his totaled car, using the jaws of life.

After surviving the crash, he struggled to wrap his mind around what happened. Bennefield said most people he talked to had never heard of accelerators getting stuck.

But 11Alive found Ford and Toyota have both had recalls over the same issue in the past 20 years. Cari Sutton, a car service manager, experienced it firsthand when the accelerator of her Ford Explorer got stuck.

"I still panicked. It's a really human thing to do," Sutton said. 

She's studied the car defect since then and said there are three things every driver needs to know.

  • Brake: Take both feet and press down hard on the brake pedal
  • Neutral: After you've braked, quickly downshift into neutral
  • Get off the road: While in neutral, steer the car onto the side of the road, emergency lane or any safe area. Once you've come to a complete stop, immediately turn off the car.  

While it is rare, Sutton said remembering those three things can save your life in an emergency.

Insurance investigators are looking at Bennefield's car to figure out how the accelerator got stuck.

Bennefield didn’t have medical insurance at the time of the crash. He is raising money to pay off his bills from his treatment. 

For more information about the online fundraiser, click the link here.

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