Statement of Shawna Fruecht
Sept. 26, 2000
My name is Shawna Fruecht and I am from Naples, Florida. I am thirty-six years old, a single mom with two teenaged sons. I am also in school part-time, working toward a master’s in business administration.
On July 2 of this year, a friend and I drove from Naples to Fort Lauderdale to go shopping ? a short trip by highway. We went in my 1998 Ford Explorer, which had been serviced two weeks earlier in June. At that time, the tires were balanced, rotated and aligned. I take safety seriously and am careful to maintain my car and tires in the best condition.
We were traveling on the highway at the posted speed limit ? 70 mph ? when we felt like the car had been hit hard from behind. I looked in my rearview mirror and realized that we hadn’t been hit. I thought that one of the tires must have blown out, but it delaminated.
I couldn’t control the car. It spun 180 degrees and then began to roll. Eyewitnesses say that the car rolled five or six times. After the third or fourth roll, I was thrown from the car through the driver’s side window, which was upside down, and I slid on pieces of the window across the highway. It’s a miracle I wasn’t hit by another car. I could hear my friend calling for me and I got up and ran back to the car to help her. The car had finally come to a stop, turned on the passenger’s side, and she was trapped inside. The engine was still running.
A Florida wildlife patrol person arrived shortly and was able to get my friend out of the car. We were conscious and able to move but badly shaken up.
At the hospital some of my injuries were visible: my face was skinned; I had seven fractured ribs and three broken ones, making it difficult to breathe; I had a concussion.
Since the accident, many neurological problems have developed: I now am troubled by severe migraines; I have bladder related problems; I suffer from numbness and loss of sensation in my hands and legs; although I’ve never worn glasses in my life, my vision is now blurred.
I am now going to physical therapy three times a week. I’ve had a CAT scan and am scheduled for an MRI and an EMG because my doctors are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the nerve and disc problems I am having. I also have many appointments with urologists due to the hard hit to my abdomen.
I am dealing with my health problems while trying to carry on with my life: raising my boys, working full-time and going to school part-time.
What these companies did — knowingly letting millions of people ride around on defective tires — is criminal, and the people in charge of these companies should be punished as criminals. Unfortunately, they won’t be, because we don’t have any laws allowing for it.
The federal government needs to be given the authority to go after company officials and charge them criminally. That’s about the best way I can see to make sure this doesn’t happen to other people. If company officials know their product was unsafe and responsible for people’s deaths, they deserve to be punished.
We also need to improve tire standards, which haven’t been updated for decades. It’s ridiculous that tire manufacturers are making tires based on such outdated rules.
And I think that companies should be forced to tell the government and the public about problems with their products. They shouldn’t be allowed to sit on this information while people are killed. The public is entitled to the information because we are the ones whose lives are at risk. And the government should have it so they can track problems and catch them early on. I really can’t believe the government doesn’t already do this.
What happened to me and my friend was horrible. Our pain and injuries could last for years. What’s even worse, though, is that it could have been prevented.
I can’t tell you how important it is for Congress to listen to us and hear our stories. We need action now. No one should have to lose their lives, or go through what we went through. And if Congress acts, they won’t have to.