Jeep in deadly northeast Harris County accident part of Chrysler recall dispute

June 6, 2013 7:00:24 AM PDT
On Tuesday night, we told you about a deadly crash and fire involving a Jeep, and about how Chrysler was refusing to recall vehicles that the government says pose a deadly danger. Now, we know those two stories are connected.

"When I got there, the car was already on fire, but he had already been pulled out of the car," the victim's stepson, Jose Martinez, said.

But 62-year-old retired welder Omar de la Rosa could not be revived. He died on the Sam Houston Parkway Tuesday after his 1993 Jeep broke down and was rear-ended, then exploded into flames.

"I was watching you guys, Channel 13, and I saw the recall," Martinez said.

Martinez says the safety concerns surrounding the vehicle makes the loss even tougher to deal with.

"These things could have been recalled before, but I guess they don't care," Martinez said.

The Jeep's manufacturer, Chrysler, is fighting attempts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993 to 2004 and Jeep Liberties from 2002 to 2007 because they have defective fuel tanks that could be punctured in an accident.

The government says 51 deaths in crashes are attributed to those leaks. Chrysler says the government's analysis is incomplete.

"The bottom line is dollars. This recall will cost Chrysler $300 million to do," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Martinez believes a recall may have spared his father's life in this accident.

"There are a lot of things I'd like to say, you know, but they cannot be shown on TV. That's how I feel," Martinez said.

We reached out to Chrysler but were unable to get a comment. If Chrysler continues to refuse the recall, the government may have to sue to make it happen.

In the meantime, what can you do if you have one of the problematic SUVs?

Installing skid plates could reduce the risk of fiery crashes, but it will not guarantee rear end crashes will not result in a fire.

The center for auto safety says in addition to the skid plate, Liberties and Grand Cherokees in question should have longer fuel filter hoses and check valve systems to stop the flow of gasoline after a crash.

None of the changes can be made by consumers themselves. The skid plate can be installed, but you can call your mechanic to see if the skid plate will work with your vehicle.


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