As Firestone Speeds Recall Efforts, Tires Are Blamed for Five Deaths
                    September 14, 2000

                    By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
                    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    WASHINGTON -- Although Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has replaced 2.2
                    million of its recalled tires so far, the massive effort isn't going fast
                    enough to prevent new highway fatalities allegedly caused when the
                    company's tires failed.

                    At least five deaths have occurred on U.S. highways since Aug. 9, when
                    Bridgestone/Firestone began the recall of 6.5 million tires. In each fatal
                    accident, treads reportedly separated from Firestone tires mounted on
                    Ford Motor Co. Explorer sport-utility vehicles. Those deaths are in
                    addition to 88 fatalities and more than 1,400 accidents in the U.S.
                    during the past decade that allegedly are linked to Firestone tires,
                    mainly on Explorers. The accidents are being investigated by the
                    National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

                    Firestone's tire-replacement program was originally expected to take
                    until next spring to complete. But Firestone and Ford have sped up the
                    effort and expect to complete the program by late November.
                    Replacements are proceeding at the rate of 70,000 to 90,000 tires a

                                                The NHTSA said it expects to release
                                                updated figures on the numbers of
                                                deaths and injuries resulting from the
                                                tire failures next week. But
                                                conversations with plaintiffs' lawyers
                                                and law-enforcement officers across the
                                                country make it clear that the numbers
                                                are certain to be higher than the
                                                agency's current estimates. The
                                                continuing deaths offer a reminder of
                                                the human costs exacted by the tire

                                                The victims include Gary Steven Haas,
                                                47 years old, a Florida pediatric heart
                                                surgeon who died Aug. 15 on a
                                                deserted stretch of Texas highway as
                                                he drove his 19-year-old son, who
                                                survived the crash, to college. In
                    another incident, former small-town police chief Garry Lynn Meek, 56,
                    and his 13-year-old granddaughter, Amy, were killed Aug. 16 as the
                    family returned from a vacation in Wyoming. And 10-year-old Mark
                    Anthony Rodriguez was killed Sept. 3 after his father's Ford Explorer
                    flipped over as the family drove to Laredo, Texas, to visit a sick aunt.

                    The exact circumstances of the crashes, all of which have been linked to
                    faulty Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, vary widely. A closer look at
                    one of the accidents, however, offers insights into the confusion,
                    sudden terror, and lingering suffering that connect the crashes.

                    On the afternoon of Aug. 22, Stephen and Elizabeth Terrasza were
                    driving home from a family vacation in California, their three-year-old
                    son Nicholas buckled into a child-safety seat between them, when Mr.
                    Terrasza felt a sharp bump from the rear of his late-model Explorer.

                    A split second later, authorities say, the right rear tire separated from
                    the vehicle, forcing the car to swerve toward the median dividing the
                    eight-lane highway. The Explorer rolled over three times before landing,
                    upside down, on the concrete divider. Mr. Terrasza, who suffered a
                    deep gash in his shoulder, looked over to see his wife, an eighth-grade
                    English teacher, hanging upside down, suspended only by her seatbelt,
                    and bleeding profusely. His son, who had been thrown from the vehicle,
                    was lying unconscious in the street.

                    The family was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where Nicholas, the family's
                    only child, was pronounced dead. Lawyers for the family say that Mrs.
                    Terrasza, who remains in critical condition, hasn't been told of her son's

                    Firestone insists that the recall is proceeding as fast as possible. The
                    company has been airlifting tires into the U.S. from Japan, home of
                    Bridgestone Corp., its parent, and recently agreed to reimburse
                    Explorer owners who want to buy replacement tires from other
                    manufacturers rather than wait for tires from Firestone.

                    Firestone Executive Vice President John Lampe said that while he was
                    concerned about the large number of recalled tires still on the road, "I
                    am pleased with all that we've done to speed the efforts."

                    Meanwhile, in Washington, House lawmakers introduced a bill to expand
                    the NHTSA's authority to collect data about potentially defective
                    products and its investigation budget. The measure would require auto
                    and tire makers to report defects found on U.S. products sold abroad,
                    a point of contention in the Firestone recall.

                    Separately, Bridgestone/Firestone is offering to replace an estimated
                    40,000 tires in Colombia, almost all of which were imported into that
                    country on Ford Explorers. The company says the replacement
                    addresses a "mislabeling" problem, not quality concerns. The tires were
                    all produced at Firestone's plant in Venezuela and are 16-inch tires, not
                    15-inch tires like the ones subject to the recall in the U.S.

                    The move underscores the growing split between Ford and Firestone:
                    Ford has already said it would replace tires in Colombia and suggested
                    the tires made in Venezuela suffer from serious defects. "There's
                    obviously a difference of opinion," says John Rappleye, a Firestone

                    -- Tim Aeppel in Pittsburgh contributed to this story.