Statement of Vickie Hendricks
Corpus Christi, Tex.
Sept. 26, 2000
My name is Vickie Hendricks, and I’ve come here from Corpus Christi to tell you about the death of my 18-year-old son, Matthew.
It was January 1998, and he was driving to pick up his girlfriend to go bowling. He was driving my Ford Explorer with ATX tires. The left rear tire detreaded, causing the Explorer to roll over four times. My son was ejected from the passenger window.
It was just five months before his high school graduation.
Before his death, he was looking forward so much to his future. And what a bright future it was. He had two job offers and was thinking about taking a year off from school so he could work and save to get himself a reliable car.
We sued Ford and Firestone in 1999. In the spring of this year, both companies settled. Because they required that the settlement terms be kept confidential, I can’t tell you how much they paid.
I can tell you, though, that it will never be enough to compensate us for losing our son. And I can tell you that what the companies did was inexcusable. The fact that they knew these tires were defective and failed to act is reprehensible. In fact, I think it’s criminal.
I can only hope that Congress listens to what we’re saying here today and does something to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future to some other family.
We need legislation that will require auto companies to tell the federal government about defects in auto parts and vehicles. We need tires to have higher standards. They ought to have been updated years ago.
We badly need to give the government the authority to impose criminal penalties in these kinds of situations, because this would make the high officials in their plush offices think twice about letting people ride around in life-threatening defective cars or on defective tires.
I can only hope that my son didn’t die in vain, and that Congress will act immediately.