Recalled spare tire cause of deadly crash?

April 28, 2010 6:41:42 AM PDT
Though it's been 10 years since Firestone recalled millions of defective tires believed to have caused rollover accidents and many deaths, no one knows how many are still on the roads. According to a pair of siblings, they think their spare was one that fell through the cracks. The damage to Orae Laird's Ford Explorer now tells the story of a tragic accident -- one no one can easily shake.

"When it started flipping, everything went so fast," Orae said.

He thinks the accident was preventable.

"I had no clue," he said.

It was the afternoon of March 29. Orae Laird's sister, Dannyelle Laird, was behind the wheel on Interstate 10. A friend was in the passenger's seat. Orae Laird and his friend were in the back. Near Sealy, Dannyelle changed lanes and soon everything changed.

"We heard a thump on the back side, and I thought we ran something over and I turned around and looked to see what we ran over," Orae said. "Then it did it again, and when it did it again, the truck lost control." The SUV flipped at least four times.

"All I thought was, 'Oh my God, I've got to get control of the vehicle,'" Dannyelle said.

Three of them survived. Orae's best friend did not.

"I miss him a lot," he said.

The tire that blew was the rear driver's side tire. It was a Firestone Wilderness AT -- one of 6.5 million tires they think were part of Firestone's massive recall that started 10 years ago because of tread separation.

The problem is Orae bought the SUV used and while the tires that came with it had been replaced, the spare had not.

"It was a good tire, or I thought it was," he said.

He said never knew about Firestone's recall.

"They have an ongoing responsibility to continue to warn consumers about the dangers of the defective tires they put out on the market," said James Gibson, the Lairds' attorney.

Firestone says it has.

In response, the company sent a statement that reads, in part, "If it was indeed a recalled tire, it should have never been on this vehicle. Firestone has gone to extraordinary lengths to reach out to consumers."

Those lengths include the 2000 recall, 2001 replacement program and a 2006 re-notification program that specifically focused on spare tires.

"Firestone needs to go above and beyond to step it up again," Gibson said.

Orae wishes he had known.

"It's a little too late," he said.

Out of the 6.5 million recalls, Firestone says it's recovered 6.3 million. Read Firestone's entire statement here. Meantime, those crash survivors are filing a lawsuit. They're also asking anyone with an old Ford Explorer to check their tires.

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