Before General Motors CEO Mary Barra was set to testify before a House committee on the auto maker's faulty ignition switch, families of crash victims pleaded their case for accountability and restitution on Capitol Hill today.
"He's gotta live the rest of his life this way," Robert Buzard said of his son Trenton, who sat beside him in a wheelchair before TV cameras and a small crowd of reporters for a news conference.
Trenton was paralyzed from his "belly button down" and still uses a feeding tube, Buzard said, after the Chevy Cobalt driven by his great grandmother crashed in April 2009, when Trenton was 1 year old.
"GM needs to accept responsibility for what they've done and make things right," Buzard said.
It was one of a handful of heartrending stories of injury, death and loss that the families presented at the Rayburn House office building, an hour before the hearing was scheduled to begin two floors below.
Candice Anderson was convicted of a felony after her 2004 Saturn Ion crashed, killing her boyfriend.
"GM was the true criminal," Anderson said, alleging that GM knew a faulty ignition switch had caused the crash but allowed her criminal proceedings to continue and kept quiet.
"The years of pain, the lives that have been changed, the lives that have been lost can never be given back to us," Anderson said.
Laura Christian, the mother of Amber Marie Rose, said GM will not accept that her daughter's death was caused by a faulty ignition switch. GM has acknowledged that the faulty ignition switches caused 13 deaths, but Christian said there are many more that have gone unrecognized.
"Amber is one of many hundreds killed by this defect," Christian said.
The families were accompanied by lawyers representing them and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who has introduced legislation to hasten warnings of automobile defects.
He called on GM to hold accountable wrongdoers within its company, support a restitution fund for victims, warn the public about defective cars still on the road, support his legislation, unseal settlements with victims to reveal more information, and allow victims to being their suits again.
"GM is failing on all fronts," Blumenthal said.