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Florida Family Files Lawsuit Over Blown Tire

Aired August 8, 2000 - 2:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Bridgestone/Firestone says it has no plans to recall its ATX or Wilderness tires because of safety concerns. Federal officials are now investigating whether the failure of the tires are to blame for dozens of deaths.

On Monday, a Florida family filed a lawsuit after one of the tires blew apart on their sport utility vehicle.

Here is CNN's John Zarrella with their story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Randall Smithwick is in pain, physically and emotionally, he says, and Smithwick blames a tire for what happened to him and his family.

RANDALL SMITHWICK: How can they leave them on the cars? how can they not put a recall out on them? they let my family get hurt. They let me get hurt.

ZARRELLA: The Smithwicks' accident may be one of the latest tied to tread separation on certain Firestone tires. Last week, Smithwick, his wife, twin daughters and a friend were crossing Florida's Interstate 75 heading to Tampa for vacation, when the rear right tire came apart.

BRIDGETT SMITHWICK: All of a sudden, my husband just lost control of the car and my husband said, "hold on!" That was it, and then we started flipping.

ZARRELLA: The Smithwicks, all recovering from various injuries, believe their accident was caused by the Firestone Wilderness tires on their Ford Explorer. That's pretty evident, says their attorney.

RALPH PATINO, ATTORNEY: This is the Smithwick tire, what's left of it anyway. This is the actual tread that came off of the Smithwick tire.

ZARRELLA: In the past week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received nearly 100 new complaints about tread separation on Firestone Wilderness, ATX and ATX-2 tires. That brings the number of cases to more than 270, 46 involving fatalities.

(on camera): Firestone says there's nothing wrong with the tires and says it's doing everything it can to find out what's causing the problem. But the company is encouraging concerned consumers to bring their cars in for a free tire inspection.

(voice-over): The Smithwicks' attorney says the company needs to do more.

PATINO: Until they acknowledge that there is a possibility that there is something wrong with the tire, people are going to continue dying on the roads.

ZARRELLA: Most of the incidents have occurred with Ford Explorers. Ford and Firestone are trying to determine if it's coincidence or if there is a link. At this point, Firestone says it has no plans to recall its popular SUV tires.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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