On Wednesday afternoon, fire trucks responding to a call in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey collided sending one truck crashing into a restaurant. Fifteen people were injured in the crash, including six fire fighters, pedestrians and restaurant customers, according to an ABC News 7 report.
Details of the Fire Truck Crash
According to reports, the details of the accident are as follows.
- Shortly after 3 p.m., fire trucks from the Monterey Park and Alhambra Fire Departments were responding to a house fire call.
- The two fire trucks collided at the intersection of Emerson and Garfield Avenue in Montery, causing one truck to slam into the Lu Dumpling House nearby.
- A total of 15 people were injured in the crash. Ten people were admitted to local hospitals, including six fire fighters.
- One customer was pinned between a table and the truck and is listed in critical condition.
Investigators said both trucks had on lights and sirens at the time of the crash. Support beams for the restaurant were damaged but workers were able to stabilize the building and keep it from collapsing.
Fire Truck Crash Statistics
A 2012 report on fire truck crashes published by the National Institutes of Health found that motor vehicle crashes were the second highest cause of death to fire fighters, making up approximately 20-25% of fire fighter deaths. Between 2000 and 2009, there were approximately 31,600 crashes involving fire vehicles. Of those crashes, 49 resulted in the death of at least one fire truck occupant. 75% of all fatal fire truck crashes result in the death of an occupant of another vehicle.
The study also determined that fire truck crashes make up nearly 10% of all accidents involving “special purpose vehicles.”
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A joint letter sent to General Motors on Wednesday from Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety (CAS) and Joan Claybrook, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) alleges the car maker rejected a safer ignition switch design in 2001. That rejected design was the same one later implemented quietly in 2006, according to an NBC News report.
Was Cost a Factor?
The letter sent Wednesday asserts, “We now know, from Engineering Drawings and Documents submitted to the U.S. Congress by General Motors, the company created two competing designs for the ignition switch on the 2003 Saturn Ion and later models… But GM chose to use the ignition switch that would fail as your customers were driving innocently on the highway.”
Ditlow, in an interview with NBC, said the only conclusion he could make based on his years of experience was that cost was the factor behind opting for the shorter, faulty switches. When asked about the letter, GM spokesman Jim Cain deferred once again to the ongoing investigation being conducted by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.
Documents Made Public
The new allegations stem from the roughly 700 pages of documents released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Friday last week. The new information had not been previously disclosed by GM.
The documents released paint a grim picture. At the center of the controversy is a small part – the switch detent plunger – that provides torque resistance for the ignition switches. In 2001, GM opted to implement a smaller part despite the fact that it failed to meet the company’s own torque specifications. In 2006, the longer plunger was approved but the new switches were never given a new part number, and neither NHTSA nor car owners were told of the change.
That small but important detail made it nearly impossible for NHTSA or GM to figure out why airbags failed to deploy only in older models.
Since February, nearly 2.6 million vehicles have been recalled due to the defective ignition switches. GM has admitted to at least 13 deaths associated with the defect. CEO Mary Barra testified earlier this month in two congressional hearings seeking answers as to why it took the automaker over a decade to recall the vehicles. Many, including Ditlow, have been highly critical of GM’s response.
In Ditlow’s recent letter to GM, he notes the new documents “paint a tragic picture of the cost culture and cover up at General Motors.”
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Details of the Fatal Phoenix Crash
Authorities say the accident happened on Monday afternoon on 16th Street and Sunland Avenue in Phoenix. Witnesses said a 1964 or 1965 Chevrolet pickup truck and a Nissan passenger car were weaving in and out of traffic and believed to be drag racing. The vehicles ran a red light when the Nissan lost control and “skidded underneath” a Ford pickup truck.
The driver of the Nissan, described as a man in his late teens or early 20s, was killed in the accident. The driver of the Ford, a man in his 30s, and his 14-year-old daughter were taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for undisclosed injuries.
Police say both surviving victims were saved due to a combination of seat belt use, airbag deployment and the height of the truck from the ground.
Authorities are still seeking the driver of the Chevrolet pickup truck in connection to the accident.
Illegal Drag Racing Statistics
In 2012, USA Today ran a report on illegal drag racing, or street racing, highlighting the dangers of the activity and the challenges in tracking accidents. The report noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 153 fatalities in 122 crashes caused by drag racing between 2001 and 2010.
However, the safety agency changed the way it tracked drag racing in 2009 that narrowed the scope of crashes where racing was involved. Under the former, broad definition, there were 1,047 fatalities caused by racing between 2001 and 2008.
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