Firestone settles decapitation case

Tiremaker Firestone and its parent company, Bridgestone Corp., have settled a 7-year-old lawsuit that claimed a defective Firestone tire caused a crash that decapitated an Indiana couple traveling toward Georgia.

A Georgia man, William Chastain of Walker County, was driving his Ford F-250 pickup on Nov. 10, 2005, when he lost control after one of his tires separated and exploded on I-24 near Manchester, Tenn. Chastain crossed the median and crashed into a vehicle driven by Leonard and Nancy Heavrin, who were decapitated. The Indiana couple were on their way to visit family in Georgia and then Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Lawyers for the Heavrins’ family claimed Firestone and Bridgestone were negligent because cost-cutting measures at a Decatur, Ill., plant that manufactured the Firestone Steeltex Radial R4S II tire resulted in substandard tires being produced. Firestone recalled the tires and the plant was eventually closed.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed but the Heavrins’ family sought compensatory and punitive damages.

The tire was manufactured at the same plant that was the target of a massive tire recall in 2000 after the National Transportation and Safety Administration found very high failure rates on Firestone tires found on several Ford models.

20 comments Add your comment


March 22nd, 2012
1:06 pm

NeNe- Sure hope something tragic like this never happens to your family so that inconsiderate people such as yourself will not joke about a very serious moment in your life. Shame on you.


March 22nd, 2012
1:17 pm

NeNe: You are neither funny nor intelligent.


March 22nd, 2012
1:30 pm

This is certainly one case where a lawsuit is certainly justified, unfortunately it will not bring those people back.

NeNe, go hide your head under a rock, a very, very heavy rock . . .

Dwayne Hood

March 22nd, 2012
1:30 pm

I was critically injured in a car wreck in 1979 caused by a defective Firestone 500 which was their first recalled product. One friend was killed and another survived with open heart surgery. (These tires were also made at the Decatur, Ill. plant.) My front tire blew off the side of the car like hand grenade leaving only a battered rim. (I thought the engine had exploded.) It was like slapping a matchbox car across a floor. No one could have kept that car on the road.

I later learned that adhesive which holds steel belts together must be made in an air free process. The Decatur plant was old and didn’t meet those standards. Even though they knew their steel belts may separate under high stress or heat, (my wreck was in the Mojave desert) Firestone exceutives ruled it was more cost effective to sell the faulty tires and pay off resulting lawsuits than it was to build a new plant or refurbish the Decatur plant. They would have gotten away with this treachery until police cruisers with Firestone 500’s started blowing off the sides of interstates during high speed chases. That’s what led to the recall.

Since then, they have been bought by the Japanese and have had at least four other recalls. And each time, they simply decide that it’s cheaper to reap profit on the devective product and pay resulting lawsuits than it is to fix the problem.


March 22nd, 2012
1:31 pm

Ignorance at its finest huh NeNe?


March 22nd, 2012
1:33 pm


Vince Doodly

March 22nd, 2012
1:37 pm

NeNe, I thought your joke was hilarious. NeNe move to the head of the class.


March 22nd, 2012
1:43 pm

Now,now,now….let’s not lose our head(s) over this issue /(*. .*)\


March 22nd, 2012
2:00 pm

You guys really need to lighten up. Nene, your head is in the right place. Keep your head up. Keep heading in the same direction. Remember- when driving, heads up.


March 22nd, 2012
2:00 pm

If you don’t shape up NeNE and Vince Dooley heads will roll!

Bernard the Woodpacker

March 22nd, 2012
2:20 pm

My goodness, one person cracks a harmless little joke and everybody just loses their heads.


March 22nd, 2012
2:25 pm

Ok, I’mmmm really slow! I don’t get the joke made by NeNe that is making just about everyone upset.


March 22nd, 2012
2:34 pm

@Emma – Just a head’s up on NeNe – I’m sticking my neck out, but it appears his/her comment was removed.

Tech Vet

March 22nd, 2012
2:48 pm

Close to 5 years ago I had four new Firestone tires put on my Honda Civic and within a year the tread had separated on two of the tires and the third blew out on the side of the tire that was towards the car. All three incidents happened while I was driving the car and I was very lucky that when the tread separated from the tiers the tire remained inflated and I was able to pull off of the freeway to change to the spare. When the tread separated from the first tire I contacted the Firestone corporate office and I was given a number to call to “resolve” the issue. When I called the number I reached a rep who told me they would review the issue if I shipped them the tire (at my own expense). Right….I ship Firestone the tire and there is no chain of custody for any legal purposes. Firestone obviously has no interest in consumer safety and should not be in the business of producing vehicle tires!

Who Cares?

March 22nd, 2012
3:23 pm

Firestone was bought out by Bridgestone in 1988, so these tires that are marketed as a Firestone product are actually Bridgestones. You’d be amazed how consumer products companies play the “numbers game” to protect their profits. I once worked for a recreational products manufacturer, and there were several models which exhibited known problems, but no pro-active action was taken to correct the problems. The management knew that a recall would be costly, so they played a game which allowed and customers who threatened to sue to be taken care of. The others, although they may have had issues, would not be covered unless they were smart and persistent enough to hold the companies feet to the fire. It was disgusting in my opinion, but I saw it year after year. The NTSB should look deeper in to some of these companies tactics, and they’d see there’s so much more work to be done to protect unsuspecting consumers. So, sorry for the Heavrin family’s loss, but I’m glad that the family had the backbone and were persistent enough to let Bridgestone pay for their unethical greed.

East Cobb RINO

March 22nd, 2012
4:23 pm

This is a perfect example of why we need government regulation. The Replicans and TEA Party nut jobs are always complaining about regulation and less government. But does anyone think for 1 minute that if not for our government looking out for the little people that plant would still be making defective tires. All so the C-level execs can get their bonuses to send their kids to private schools and go on vacations around the world. We need more governent – not less to protect us from the greedy corporations.


March 22nd, 2012
4:25 pm

What we need in this country is tort reform to protect these unfairly set upon corporations, with little or no power to protect themselves, from money grubbing individuals who are out to make a quick buck.

(Welcome to the corporatocracy.)

East Cobb RINO

March 22nd, 2012
4:31 pm

What we need in this country is to prosecute those responsible for the murder of 2 innocent people who had their heads chopped off.


March 22nd, 2012
4:41 pm

East Cobb Rino, Really, the regulators that you put some much faith in WERE ON THE JOB and they DIDNT DO THEIR JOB. People died because these government inspectors that you say were looking out for the little people DID NOT DO THEIR JOB! Which part of this makes you feel safe? Huh

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