A Special Report: St. Petersbrg Times Deadly Combination: Ford, Firestone and Florida
Deadly Combination:
Ford, Firestone and Florida
Part One
  • Main story
  • Companies warming to settlements
  • At a glance
  • The players
  • Questions and Answers
  • A Timeline
  • What the companies say
  • Interview with Anita Kumar, the reporter
  • Graphic: How the tires failed
  • Graphic: When it’s too late
  • Graphic: By the numbers
  • Graphic: The human toll

  • Part Two
  • After the rollover
  • Suspect tires still on road
  • Driver side rear tires fail the most
  • About this report

  • Contact Anita Kumar:
  • Via e-mail: Click here
  • By phone: (727) 893-8472

    Further coverage
  • In first trial, Firestone settles lawsuit
  • Battered Firestone counting on local ties
  • Rollover crashes are hard to track
  • Ford leaves 2-door SUV unchanged
  • Recall may leave Firestone bankrupt
  • Government to expand tire recall
  • FHP says Firestone tire a factor in fatal crash
  • Two bay area lawsuits target Ford, Firestone
  • Ford agrees to test replacement tires
  • Ford recall: from bad to worse?
  • Ford's sub tires may fail more
  • Attention shifts from Firestone to Ford Explorer
  • Ford widens recall; companies cut ties
  • Ford recalls Wilderness AT Firestone tires
  • Dealerships brace for Ford tire recall
  • Tire decision not just for Ford owners
  • Voluntary tire recall rolling smoothly
  • Firestone cuts deal on bad tires
  • How the tires failed: An interactive graphic
    anita kumar

    Q&A with the reporter,
    Anita Kumar
    The St. Petersburg Times Online staff posed a series of questions to Anita Kumar for her insights in reporting this series.

    Q. Why did you decide to review Ford-Firestone accidents in Florida?
    A. We decided to take a closer look at Florida's accidents after earlier reporting that victims in some crashes sued Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. following last fall's massive tire recall. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had released information about the accidents nationwide so we thought it would be relatively simple to isolate just the Florida accidents. But we soon realized the database the federal government made public detailing the accidents was grossly inadequate, excluding key pieces of information, counting some accidents twice and others not at all.

    Q. So what did you do?
    A. We began our research in December, trying to find the number and similarities of accidents that occurred in Florida. For the next four months, we had one reporter and one researcher work to gather the information. We carefully combed through the federal database for any useful information and got copies of backup reports, though many did not exist. We got copies of state accident reports dating back to 1995 involving Ford Explorers and any sort of tire problems. Then we contacted the people involved with the accidents to find out whether the vehicle involved Firestone tires with a tread separation problem. If we could not verify the information, we did not include the accident in our data. We talked to 35 attorneys across the nation, mostly in Florida, who were suing Ford and Firestone and five non-profit organizations that were collecting accident information. We got copies of lawsuits filed around the state and documents filed with the massive class action suit in Indiana. We also talked extensively with officials from Ford and Firestone for both the articles and graphics but they would not reveal the number of accidents in Florida or any details about them.

    Q. Are your statistics different from the ones the federal governments has?
    A. Yes. We believe our numbers are more accurate than any other organization investigating crashes in Florida, including the federal government. The federal government expressed surprise at our numbers but insisted that the agency was not trying to find the exact number. It only reviews accidents reported to the agency and does not actively seek information. For example, the agency could receive dozens of calls, letters and e-mails about a single accident, which would be counted each time as a separate incident, but might have no information about another accident.

    Q. Are there more accidents out there?

    A. We believe there are many more accidents that occurred in Florida. We have accident reports for many more but we could not determine whether the accident was a Firestone tread separation. In many cases, people did not know what caused their accidents until years later or did not keep track of the type of tires they used.

    Q. What has happened to the companies since the scandal became public?

    A. Last year's scandal cost both companies money. But while attorneys and industry experts wonder if Firestone will even survive, Ford continues to be a success. The Explorer may be prone to flip over but Firestone tires have been receiving most of the blame. The Explorer, on which Ford is making design modifications this year, continues to be the world's best-selling sports utility vehicle. Firestone has set aside $750-million to settle cases and other recall costs. Ford disclosed in its annual report that the recall, including settlements, will cost at least $590-million.

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