How Unsafe Firestone Tires Took, And Shattered, People’s Lives


Posted on 7th January 2011 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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USA Today put on a face on the victims of faulty Firestone tires by interviewing their surviving families. It makes for a compelling story.

Federal regulators claim that accidents involving Firestone tires caused 148 deaths and more than 525 injuries, according to USA Today.

In one of the cases described in the article, Eve Monson of Albuquerque, N.M., talks about her granddaughter, Lori Erickson. The 25-year-old and her husband Scott, 28, were killed on Memorial Day when the tread on a Firestone tire on her Ford Explorer came off. The vehicle rolled six five times.

Lori, who was five months pregnant, was killed in the accident, as was her husband.

Monson and Scott’s mother, Christine Demijohn, remain devastated by the deaths of their loved ones. Demijohn is angry at Ford and Firestone, because she believes they were aware of the problems with the tires. Her family has planted crosses at the spot where the accident took place.

Because of her agony, Monson is now on antidepressants. And she has dreams where her granddaughter shows up on her doorstep, saying she is finally back from a trip to Europe.

If that isn’t wish fulfillment, what is?   


Continental Concorde Verdict, ‘Criminalization’ Of Crashes, May Have Chilling Effect


Posted on 8th December 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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 Continental Airlines’ conviction of involuntary homicide in a crash that killed 113 people may “discourage open discussion of flight hazards,” The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The story, “In Wake of Concorde Verdict, A Heated Air Safety Debate,” was a reaction piece to a French court fining Continental $1.6 million for the crash of an Air France Concorde a decade ago.

The court found that Continental and one of its mechanics didn’t properly maintain a plane, which dropped debris on a runway at Charles de Gaulle airport in 20o0. The Concorde hit the debris and damaged a tire, sending  rubber from that tire slamming into the plane and causing a fuel leak. The Concorde then crashed.

“The trial is the latest example of a world-wide trend to pursue criminal charges in airliner accidents, which many aviation experts worry threatens to erode safety by chilling early, open discussions of hazards,” The Journal reported.

That is such a big fear that the International Aviation Organization, part of the United Nations, will be asking governments “to avoid the criminalization of mistakes,” according to The Journal.

There is also the belief by some that the French Court found Continental guilty because the horrific crash was caused by non-French people.  

Continental plans to appeal the court’s decision.      

Continental Found Guilty Of Manslaughter In Concorde Crash That Killed 113


Posted on 6th December 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A French court Monday convicted Continental Airlines and one of its mechanics of manslaughter charges stemming from the crash of an Air France Concorde jet that killed 113 people.

The court found that titanium debris from a Continenal DC-10 caused the crash of the Concorde on July 25, 2000. The Continental plane dropped the debris onto a runway at Charles de Gaulle airport right before the Concorde took off. An investigation revealed that the debris slashed the Concorde’s tire, and bits of its rubber got into its fuel tanks and started a fire.

The Concorde then crashed into a nearby hotel, with four people on the ground and 109 onboard all killed in the accident. The victims were German tourists.

Continental, which said it plans to appeal the verdict, was ordered to pay Air France $1.43 million for injuring the foreign carrier’s reputation. Continental was also fined $265,000.

According to the Associated Press, Continental and its mechanic John Taylor were also directed to jointly pay more than $360,000 in damages to a variety of civil parties.

Taylor was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence, and fined $2,650. His now-retired supervisor, Stanley Ford, and three former French officials were acquitted of the charges.  

Continental has argued that the Concorde has suffered from a series of mechanical problems over the years, including some involving its fuel tanks. A French inquiry found that the Concorde’s fuel tanks weren’t adequately protected from shock. 

But the French court put the blame  on Continental and Taylor, saying that the mechanic should have known better than to use titanium, a very hard metal, to put in as a so-called “wear strip” on the DC-10. Taylor was also charged with not installg the part that fell on the runway properly. 


Ford Van Design Led To Tire-Blowout That Killed Six, Expert Says


Posted on 21st September 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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The six victims of a crash last weekend, who were killed when their van blew a rear tire and rolled over repeatedly in New York, had two things going against them. One they could not control, the second they could have. 

First, an auto safety expert explained in the New York Post Monday that the van involved in the accident, a 1997 Ford Econoline, has design flaws that make it susceptible to tire blowouts.

Byron Bloch, an expert witness in auto-safety cases, said that the 15-passenger van that members of a Queens church congregation were traveling in has “a high center of gravity, a narrow wheel base and a poor suspension system,” according to the Post. Bloch said that all creates stress on the van’s rear tires, stress that increases when the vehicle has a lot of passengers.

There were 14 members of the Joy Fellowship Christian Assembly on the van when it blew its rear tire Saturday afternoon. The van then went out of control and repeatedly flipped over on the New York Thruway near the Woodbury Commons outlet mall, killing the church’s bishop and pastor, as well as four others.

Bloch has called for Ford to redesign its van, which he deems dangerous,

Now here is something the congregation could have done, but didn’t, that could have saved lives. Many of them weren’t wearing seat belts. Seven people were thrown out of the van when it flipped. 

Block told the Post that Ford could have done something about that, too. If the Ford vans has shatterproof glass, that could have stopped passengers from being ejected from the van, according to Block.   

Now maybe Ford will address these issues. Maybe.


Six Bronx Church Members Killed When Van Flips Over After Tire Blowout


Posted on 19th September 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Six people were killed — including the bishop and pastor of a Bronx church — when their van’s rear tire blew out Saturday, ending with the vehicle repeatedly rolling over on the New York State Thruway.

In addition to the fatalities, eight of the van’s passengers were injured in the accident, which took place around 3 p.m. Saturday near the Woodbury Commons outlet mall in New York. Bodies were scattered on the Thruway, covered with sheets. 

There were 14 people in the Ford van, members of the Joy Fellowship Chutch who were on their way to visit a sister church, First Light Christian Assemblies, in Albany, N.Y. 

In its account, The New York Times quoted Pasquale Prozzillo, a second assistant chief in the Woodbury Fire Department, who said the van’s driver lost control after the vehicle blew its tire.

“The van rolled three to four times,” Prozzillo told The Times. “Seven people got ejected.”

The church’s bishop, Simon White, died in the accident, as did his wife Zelda White, and pastor Titus McGhie. The other fatalities were Avril Murray, Evelyn Ferguson and Elaine Reid.

One survivor, Veronica Francis, 52, had injuries to both legs and a deep cut above her eye. Her husband Patrick told the New York Post that his wife lost consciousness when the van rolled over, which means she also suffered a concussion.


Ford Ordered To Pay Family Of Mets Prospect $131 Million By Jury In Fatal Explorer Rollover Accident


Posted on 7th September 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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 A Mississippi jury awarded the family of New York Mets prospect Brian Cole, who was killed in an accident while driving an Explorer, $131 million from Ford Motor Co.

This isn’t the first settlement of its kind that Ford had had to pay. It reportedly has shelled out a large sum of money for settlements in wrongful death cases involving its Explorer, which has a long history of fatal accidents.

 The attorney for Cole’s family, Tab Turner, told Reuters said that after the jury rendered its verdict, the family reached a settlement with Ford. The terms of that settlement were’s disclosed, but the case in general was worth more than some other rollover lawsuits because of Cole’s profession as a ball player.

Ford had argued that Cole had been speeding, driving 80 mph, when he went off the road in a 2001 rollover accident and was killed. Cole, 22, wasn’t wearing a seat belt. He died in the Florida Panhandle while on his way from home to Mississippi.

The auto maker also contended that it would have won the case if the jury hadn’t excluded some evidence.  

“This was a tragic accident and our sympathy goes out to the Cole family, for their loss, but it was unfair of them to blame Ford,” a spokeswoman for the auto maker said.

Ford had ended its lengthy partnership with Firestone in 2001, the same year as Cole’s accident, blaming the tiremaker for rollovers and blowouts that caused a number of fatal accidents involving the Explorer. 

That SUV seemed to have left a legacy of death. The details and fatal statistics involving the Explorer are chronicled in a book by Adam L. Penenberg, “Tragic Indifference: One Man’s Battle with the Auto Industry Over the Danger of SUVs.”    

Some of the data about the Explorer from Penenberg’s book were plucked out, and credited, by this posting on

Jury Awards $18 Million In Rollover Death Of Boy In Case Against Dealer Who Installed Recalled Tire


Posted on 30th August 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A California Superior Court jury has awarded $18 million to a Monrovia family who lost their 11-year-old son in an SUV rollover caused by the blowout of an aged, recalled Firestone Tire.

The jury found that Cerritos, Calif.-based American Tire Depot (ATD) was 85 percent negligent for installing a 12-year-old Firestone Radial ATX spare despite the fact that it had been recalled and Firestone inspection guidelines against using tires more than 10 years old.

Before the trial involving ATD, the Moreno family settled its suits against Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone Americas. 

All the litigation stemmed from an accident May 24, 2006. Willie Moreno was the rear seat passenger in a Ford Explorer driven by his brother, Ramon Moreno Jr., when the left rear tire experienced a catastrophic tread separation on California Highway 15 in Riverside County, Calif.  Willie, who was wearing his seatbelt, was partially ejected in the rollover crash and died of massive head injuries.  

“This tragedy could have been easily prevented,” attorney Roger Braugh, who represented the Moreno family, said in a prepared statement. “The facts of this case showed very clearly that American Tire Depot did not offer even a minimum of professional attention to tire safety.”  

ATD had argued at trial that it didn’t install the recalled tire on the Moreno’s SUV.

In January 2006, Ramon Moreno Sr. brought the family’s 1994 Ford Explorer to ATD to replace two rear tires.  ATD, a Firestone dealer, advised Moreno to rotate the spare, a recalled Firestone Radial ATX, onto the vehicle and sold him one new tire.  

The Moreno family, who purchased the Explorer used in 2005, was unaware that the Firestone spare was 12 years old and part of the massive 2000 Firestone recall.

At the time ATD installed the recalled tire, both Ford and Firestone had issued warnings against using aged tires.  Firestone’s October 2005 dealer Technical Bulletin advised against the use of tires older than 10 years, regardless of the tread depth.

Ford also issued a warning in 2005 advising against the use of tires older than six years.  Ford’s warning stated “Tires degrade over time, even when they are not being used. . .  You should replace the spare tire when you replace the other road tires due to the aging of the spare tire.”

The tire techs at ATD didn’t follow these guidelines, nor did they check to determine if the tire was recalled, the Moreno family’s attorney had argued at trial.  

ATD acknowledged that it provided no training for its tire technicians on tire aging or how to read the tire date, which is embedded in the alphanumeric DOT code molded on the tire sidewall.  The company also admitted that it lacked any policies or procedures to identify and capture recalled tires.

An ATD store manager testified that he would provide the same service again; a company representative claimed he would expect a technician to do “nothing” if presented with an aged, recalled tire.

“In my years as a trial attorney, I’ve never come across a company that said they didn’t do it, but if they did, they’d do it again,” attorney Jason Hoelscher, who also represented the Morenos, said in a prepared statement.  “When a company takes that position, a jury needs to evaluate that company’s practices.”

Since the fatal accident, the Moreno family has been a vocal advocate for better tire safety laws. Ramon Moreno Jr., Willie’s brother, testified before the California Assembly in 2009, urging the Legislature to pass a bill requiring tire dealers to disclose tire age.

“Now all we can hope for is that Willie’s death can result in some positive change so that other families don’t have to live through what we have lived through,” Moreno, who will continue to seek legislation, said in a prepared statement.  

Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies, who has been advocating for expiration dates on tires and consumer disclosure on tire age, says that the verdict sends a strong message to the industry.

“Tire dealers and tire manufacturers must implement policies that ensure proper training to prevent aged and recalled tires from being installed on vehicles,” he said. “The failure to do so jeopardizes public safety.”


JetBlue Plane’s Tires Catch Fire On Landing In Sacramento


Posted on 27th August 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A JetBlue plane’s tires caught on fire Thursday during a tough landing in Sacramento, leaving 15 people with minor injuries, according to the Associated Press.

The scary incident sent some passengers fleeing from the plane through the aircraft’s emergency slides.

The JetBlue flight was traveling from Long Beach, Calif., to Sacramento, and apparently had trouble with its brakes when it landed. The plane hit the runway with a big thud, one passenger told AP, and then the crew yelled for everyone to leave in a hurry via the inflatable slides.

The plane’s 87 passengers were driven to the terminal in buses, and five people were taken to the hospital.






Tire Accident Foul-Up: Victim Reported Killed Is Alive, While One Believed Alive Is Dead


Posted on 26th July 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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A young Arizona woman, a passenger in an SUV, was killed when the vehicle’s tire blew out and it flipped over. But the accident caused even more heartache than it had to when authorities screwed up and misidentified the woman’s body, telling  the family of a teen-aged girl who actually survived the crash that she had died at the scene.

Humans are fallible and make mistakes, but one would hope that this kind of situation wouldn’t happen. But it has happened before. I have encountered such a mix-up in my own practice, so I know it does occur. occur.

In this instance, the relatives and friends of Abby Guerra, 19, a soccery star from Glendale, Ariz., were told by authorities that she had died in the SUV accident July 18. But in fact Guerra was lying in a hospital alive. Officials had mistakenly identified the deceased victim, who was actually Marlena Cantu, 21.

Abby did sustain serious head injuries, but she’s alive. So now her family can end their mourning and stop making funeral plans, and hope she recovers. But the Cantu family, which has been keeping watch over Abby at the hospital, believing she was their daughter Marlena, are now the ones that will have to mourn and make arrangements.

Guerra, who has a soccer scholarship to the University of Evansville in Indiana, and Cantu were returning from a trip to Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., when the SUV’s left-rear tire blew out. There were three other passengers in the vehicle with them.

Tyler Parker, 20, died the next day at a Phoenix hospital. The two other passengers, including misidentified Guerra, were also taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, undergoing treatment for serious head wounds. She is in critical condition after sustaining brain injury, a broken back and a collapsed lung. Her face was so banged up, she was virtually unrecognizable. She had black eyes and her face was swollen. She had undegone brain surgery, so her head was shaved.

Unfortunately, her future as a soccer player appears dim at this point, but at least she is alive.

The misidentification was made because officials announced that Guerra was dead before the medical examiner’s office had a chance to compare medical records for a positive ID. That record check didn’t take place until a week after the accident.

St. Joseph’s said that its doctor shortage and huge volume of patients is what delayed the medical record comparison.

I’m sure that’s little solace to the Guerra and Cantu families.        


California Woman Dies When Shredded Tire Causes Pick-Up To Flip


Posted on 6th July 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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 A California woman was killed, and her husband injured, when one of their tires shredded, causing their pickup truck to roll over several times on Monday.

The accident involved a F-250 Super Duty pick-up going north on Interstate 15 in Victorville, Calif. 

Jerry Wayne Hooker, 55, of Bloomington, Calif., was driving with his wife Gloria Lyn Ziegenmeyer-Hooker, 57, in a fast lane when suddenly his tire lost pressure. He tired to pull over, but then his tire shredded. The truck then flipped repeatedly.

 Rescuers found the couple trapped in their vehicle. Ziegenmeyer- Hooker was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hooker was taken by Mercy Air to Antelope Valley Hospital. He injured his right shoulder and had cuts on his face.