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Firestone: Worldwide tire lawsuit started in Ellis County

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MIKE SACKETT

Ellis County Press

ELLIS COUNTY - Signs in front of area car dealers and tire stores read 'Firestone recall center' have been appearing around Ellis County and the surrounding areas. These are in response to the voluntary recall by Firestone of their ATX and ATX II tires in response to an effort begun by a Midlothian family.

According to lawsuits filed against Ford, Bridgestone/Firestone and many of its dealers, these tires have caused numerous injuries and fatalities from tread separation.

Following a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration announcement of an investigation of accidents related to these tires Firestone/Bridgestone voluntarily issued an Aug. 9 recall of the tires. The 6.5 million tire recall included 15-inch ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT built at the Decatur, Ill. Plant.

According to news releases by both Ford Motor Company and Bridgestone/Firestone, 'the only tires affected came from the Decatur, Ill plant. The same tires from other plants have an outstanding safety record.

Jennifer Lynn Sanders of Midlothian is one of the many filing suit against Ford and Firestone. Sanders was involved on a single vehicle roll over accident due to a blow-out from a separated tread. According to NHTSA there have been 28 fatality and 125 injury accidents in Texas alone attributed to the Firestone tire under investigation.

As a result of the NHTSA investigation both Sears and Discount Tire stores have discontinued sale of the tires until further information can be developed.

In its investigation, Firestone has contended tire inflation has played a part in the failure of the tire and resulting accidents. At the request of Firestone, Ford evaluated the performance of these tires at 30 PSI. Their findings were the Ford Explorer and Mountaineer maintain good performance at the higher pressure. Ford concluded their report saying they recommend Explorer and Mountaineer customers with 15-inch wheels maintain their tire pressure in the 26-30 PSI range.

The tires under investigation and subject to recall were installed as original equipment or installed as replacement equipment on 1991-2000 Ford Explorer, 1996 - 2000 Mercury Mountaineer, 1991-2000 Ford ranger pick-up, 1991-1994 Ford F-series light trucks, 1991-1994 Ford Bronco, 1994-1996 Mazda B-series pick up truck, and 1991-1994 Navajo.

While representatives of local Firestone dealers declined comment; other tire dealers reported seeing several of the Firestone tires with early signs of separation. Employees at H7H Tire in Red Oak said almost all of the tires traded in have started to separate.

The only tire eligible for the recall is the P235/75r15 Wilderness AT manufactured at the Decatur, Ill plant. The manufacturing plant can be determined by looking at the DOT code on the tire's sidewall. The Decatur plant code will look like 'DOT VD… .' Any other plant code is not eligible.

Both Ford and Firestone strongly urge vehicle drivers to frequently check the tire pressure and operate the vehicle within tire inflation ranges. NTHSA safety releases stress that vehicles operated in the lower states where the temperatures are higher and with under-inflated tires are more prone to advanced tire wear and failure from tread separation.

The NHTSA also recommends frequent inspection of vehicle tires. Tires showing signs of bulges on the sidewall or tread, cracks along the sidewall should be immediately replaced.

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