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MORE BURN DEATHS DOCUMENTED FOR GM PICKUP TRUCKS, IIR SAYS

 MORE BURN DEATHS DOCUMENTED FOR GM PICKUP TRUCKS, IIR SAYS
 WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Institute for Injury Reduction issued the following:
 Nearly 250 people died over a 17-year period from burns received in side impacts of General Motors pickup trucks with defectively designed "side saddle" fuel tanks, according to a new analysis of government data.
 The analysis was conducted by Dr. Leon Robertson and released by the Institute for Injury Reduction. Robertson, who is a member of IIR's technical advisory committee, is a leading authority on the epidemiology of motor vehicle crash injuries.
 The new figures update earlier findings that 105 people died of fire burns in side impacts of the GM pickup trucks over the six-year period 1981-86. The new figures cover the 1975-1991 period, for which U.S. Fatal Accident Reporting System data are available. IIR President Ben Kelley estimated that if data were available for all years in which the trucks have operated, the total fatality figure could exceed 300.
 "Since 5 million of these vehicles remain on the highway," Kelley said, "we must expect that as many as 200 additional burn deaths will occur from their side-impact collisions unless GM immediately recalls and corrects the defect."
 The Center for Auto Safety has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Bureau to investigate the vehicles and have them recalled for correction of the defect. The vehicles were manufactured and sold by GM beginning in 1972 and ending with the 1987 model year.
 Kelley noted that the new analysis "does not even take into account the number of non-fatal, horrific burn injuries that have been caused by this defect, which may exceed fatalities by as much as 600 percent."
 The fire-causing defect stems from GM's decision to install side- mounted fuel tanks outside of the frame rails on all "C" and "K" style pickup trucks manufactured between 1972 and 1987. The design exposes the tanks to direct hits and resulting ruptures from impacting vehicles in side collisions. Other manufacturers placed their pickup truck fuel tanks inside the protective frame rail structures during the same model years.
 "Had GM done the same," Kelley said, "about 185 of the 248 people burned to death in side impacts of the GM vehicles could have survived, judging from deaths rates for such vehicles during the 1981-86 period." Based on real-world accidents and GM crash tests, it is believed that the burn victims would normally have survived without fatal or catastrophic injuries, since their occupant compartments were largely intact after the crashes.
 Earlier this month, Public Citizen, joined by a number of consumer groups and newspapers, asked a court in Fort Worth, Texas, to require GM to release crash test films and other documents showing the company's long-standing knowledge of the defect and its failure to remedy it. The documents had been produced by GM in a subsequently settled burn death case -- Zelenuk vs. GM -- but were shielded from public view by a protective order imposed earlier at GM's request.
 Moments before the court began an open hearing on the documents, GM withdrew its objections to their release, apparently to avoid protracted publicity about its efforts to keep the documents secret. However, it has still failed to allow public inspection of additional documents which it provided to NHTSA earlier this month.
 In today's announcement, Kelley noted that NHTSA has known about the defect for years, yet taken no action to investigate it or force its correction. He urged the agency to move immediately to grant the center's petition and undertake expedited action to force a GM recall. "Another day may mean another needless burn death," he said. "What greater incentive does NHTSA need to stop dragging its feet?"
 -0- 10/27/92
 /CONTACT: Ben Kelley of the Institute for Injury Reduction, 301-249-0090/ CO: Institute for Injury Reduction; General Motors ST: District of Columbia IN: AUT SU:


MH -- DC024 -- 5545 10/27/92 14:53 EST
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Date:Oct 27, 1992
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