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Safe mode is linked to the park brake switch and in many cars and light Utility vehicles the transmission range selector, you will need a scanner to see what exactly is the cause of hatch switch lockout.
the sequoia hatchback handle breaking is a known problem due to the extremely low quality of the plastic. 1st you have to open the back door! there is a small pin to the right side of the hatchback door exterior handle. bend a coat hanger and put it on the small pin, pull down and the door will open. Then remove inside panel and you can undo screws and replace the hatchback door handle.
It sounds like the handle has become disconnected from the mechanism. You will have to remove the inner door panel and reattch. It is not a complicated or difficult job but if you get a professional it could cost upwards of $100.
http://www.ncttora.com/fsm/2000/index.html has lots of great info...hope it can help... i have a 4runner my self but have not come across that prob...will the key fob unlock all other doors? do you live where its freezes...ive had doors freeze shut for weeks....
YOU HAVE TO TAKE OFF THE DOOR PANEL ON THE INSIDE OF THE HATCH, IF IT WONT OPEN YOU HAVE TO DO IT FROM THE INSIDE, THEN THERE ARE 3 10MM BOLTS YOU TAKE OUT AND THE HANDLE AND PLATE LIGHT BRACKET WILL COME OUT AND YOU CAN REPLACE THE HANDLE... FYI MOST TIMES THE HANDLE BREAKS BECAUSE YOUR ACTUAL LATCH IS RUSTED OR FROZEN SO YOU MAY NEED TO REPLACE BOTH!!