Police say a 42-year-old Auto Butler Car Wash employee died Sunday afternoon while cleaning the interior of a Jeep Cherokee for a customer.
Robert S. Dorsey, 42, got in the car to drive the vehicle from the auto wash garage area to a drying area around 4:15 p.m. when he accidentally pressed down on the gas pedal, according to Alton Police Chief Jason Simmons. The Jeep sped out of the car wash tunnel into a ditch just north of the company’s property and landed on its roof.
He died before he could be taken out of the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m. of blunt head and chest trauma, about an hour after police arrived, according to a news release from the Madison County coroner.
“We all know this guy; we get our cars washed there every Sunday,” Simmons said. “The officers are taking it pretty hard.”
Simmons said several people witnessed the accident, including employees and the Jeep’s owner.
He also noted that officers did visit the car wash earlier Sunday to get their cars cleaned.
“It’s tragic — it really is,” Simmons said. “It’s one for the books. It’s freak accident — that’s for sure.”
The Jeep Cherokee has been in the center of several recalls for sudden unintended acceleration, most recently in 2014 and 2015. In 2006, the International Carwash Association issued an advisory, warning employees at car washes to be careful while handling Jeep Cherokees.
In addition, about 1,600 crashes occur each year due to pedal error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.
Funeral arrangements will be done by Cathy Williams and Sons Mortuary in Alton, Illinois.