WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. -- The parents of a local man who died in a mysterious crash are desperate to find out what happened in the final moments of their son's life.
The answers may lie in Chris Eves' crumpled truck, but the car maker is standing in the way.
Eves was driving on a lonely stretch of road in rural Whatcom County at 2 a.m. when his Toyota Tundra veered off the road and came to a violent crash. There were no witnesses.
"It's unbearable, not knowing what happened out here that night, the truth of it," said the victim's father, Ron Eves.
Chris Eves died of massive head and internal injuries. The State Patrol investigated, but the reports leave unanswered questions.
The truck never swerved. There are no skid marks and no clear evidence as to why he hit the tree. There's only a final ominous note in the police file: "It remains unknown why the collision occurred."
"There was one of the troopers, who's the actual analyst, who indicated to me on the phone that Chris had committed suicide. That was his feelings," said Ron.
The suggestion of suicide shocked the victim's parents.
"No, he'd never commit suicide," said Lori Eves, his mother.
Chris had a baby daughter, a good job and had just bought a house.
"He loved life. He loved his little girl so much. No way, no suicide, no," said Lori.
There was one place the Eves might find answers. Chris's Toyota had an event data recorder, an EDR, which is kind of like a plane's black box.
When a vehicle's airbags deploy, the EDR records the five or six seconds leading up to a crash and maybe a second or so after.
According to Toyota's Web site, Chris's EDR could have recorded his speed, pressure on the gas pedal and, most importantly, whether Chris applied the brakes and tried to stop. The EDR could provide evidence as to whether or not Chris committed suicide.
"All we need is some closure, and that's what we're hoping to get from this box," said Lori.
The Eves have the box, but without a special tool from Toyota, the information inside is inaccessible. And Toyota has told the Eves, "No."
"It's very, very irresponsible, and uncaring," said Ron.
KOMO News repeatedly contacted Toyota. The company said it could not comment because there is an open claim, even though the Eves say there is no lawsuit and no plans to file one.
But Toyota says it will only release the data in a criminal case when police ask for it.
Chuck Lewis reconstructs accidents, figuring out what happened using every shred of evidence.
"We test theories of people. We call it the 'what if?' program," he said.
Lewis believes the evidence in an EDR is critical, both for law enforcement and families.
"And it may not determine unequivocally what was done, but it will give them an idea," he said.
KOMO News took the Eves' story to the state Legislature.
Rep. Deb Eddy, D-Kirkland, is spearheading a bill which would keep anyone from getting information from EDRs without the owner's permission. Legislators never realized manufacturers might keep the information hidden from owners like the Eves.
After talking to KOMO News, Eddy planned to add an amendment, requiring Toyota and all other car makers to give owners the data inside the EDRs.
"With what you have told me, I'm now thinking about this in a somewhat different way," she said. "Absolutely, I can understand why as a parent you would want access to information about a crash in which a child died."
The bill wouldn't be retroactive; however, if it passes, the Eves could take in the EDR from their son's truck to Toyota and demand the company download the information inside.
The Eves are cautiously optimistic, and hopeful they'll finally put their son's memory to rest.