Firestone Tire Death Toll Rises

ByABC News
October 17, 2000, 11:37 AM

Oct. 17 -- As the federal government reported it had linked 18 additional deaths to failures of Firestone tires, the company announced today it was trimming production at three plants, in part due to decreased demand.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations new report brings the total to 119 fatalities associated with the recalled Firestone tires.

The agency reported it had now recorded more than 3,500 complaints associated with the tires, and linked them to more than 500 injuries.

Last month, the agency reported 2,226 complaints and more than 400 injuries. NHTSA said it is continuing to receive information related to the ongoing investigation.

The agency is looking into accidents that may have been the result of blowouts, tread separation and other problems with the Firestone tires.

Firestone announced the recall of 6.5 million Wilderness AT, ATX and ATX II tires in the United States on Aug. 9, three months after NHTSA began its probe, but nine months after Ford started recalling tires overseas.

The majority of the tires were fitted as original equipment on the Ford Explorer, and most of the fatal accidents involved Ford Explorers equipped with the affected tires.

Ford and Firestone says nearly two thirds of the recalled tires have been replaced, and that the recall should be completed next month.

Layoffs, Cutbacks at FirestoneIn part due to decreased demand for its tires, Firestone announced today is was cutting back production at three plants.

The facilities are located in LaVergne, Tenn., Oklahoma City, Okla., and Decatur, Ill., where many of the recalled tires were produced.

Firestone said it would lay off 450 employees at the Decatur plant.

These are the necessary, but painful, first steps to ensure [Firestones] financial health and viability, Firestone CEO John Lampe said in a statement. Lampe said the cutbacks were due to excess inventory as well as decreased demand.

Lampe strongly resisted suggestions that the Decatur plant layoffs were connected to its role in producing recalled tires.