Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Deaths linked to Firestones tops 100

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — Fifteen more deaths were reported Tuesday in the federal government's investigation into defective Firestone tires, bringing the total number of reported fatalities linked to accidents involving the tires to 103.

        The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received about 800 additional reports of tire tread separation, blowouts and other problems with Firestone tires since the government last updated the numbers Aug. 31, the agency said.

        There now have been reports of more than 400 injuries, it said.

        Most of the accidents have involved the Ford Explorer, the world's top-selling sport utility vehicle, on which the Firestone tires are standard equipment.

        The latest numbers on the Firestone investigation came as another tire maker, Continental General Tire, announced that it will replace 160,000 tires — mostly mounted on Lincoln Navigators — because they were found to be susceptible to losing their tread.

        The tread loss on the Continental tires — the 16-inch ContiTrac AS tires — can cause minor damage to the vehicle, said the Charlotte, N.C.-based company. It said there have been no reports of drivers losing control because of the problem with those tires.

        The problems with the Firestone tires are more serious.

        Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. recalled 6.5 million ATX, ATX II and Wilderness AT tires Aug. 9 and an nounced last week that it would provide free replacements to owners of 1.4 million other tires that NHTSA said could be unsafe.

        NHTSA engineers are monitoring the recall and studying other Firestone tire lines to see whether the recall should be expanded.

        Since the recall was announced, the number of accident reports as well as fatalities and injuries have increased steadily, partly because of the widespread publicity. When the recall was announced by Bridge- stone/Firestone the number of deaths thought to be linked to tires was put at 46. At the time, the agency had received about 300 accident reports.

        Ford began a Firestone tire recall in 16 foreign countries more than a year before the U.S. recall started.

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