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Suit says defective tire led to deaths

Daughters of crash victims allege the tire fell apart on the 10 Freeway, causing the fatal crash.

March 22, 2007|Jonathan Abrams | Times Staff Writer

A lawsuit filed by two Madera women whose parents and three other relatives were killed last week in a highway crash alleges that a defective tire recalled five years ago caused their pickup truck to veer off the freeway and hit a tree.

The lawsuit accuses the tire's manufacturer, Continental Tire North America, of wrongful death, negligence and product liability.

Rene Camacho Pena, 42; his wife, Prisca Malagon Camacho, 40; and their son, 4-year-old Jordy Camacho Malagon, died in the accident March 15 on the eastbound 10 Freeway near Vineyard Avenue in Ontario. The couple, originally from Guanajuato, Mexico, had recently moved to Ontario from the Central Valley town of Madera.

Also killed in the accident were Mercedes Malagon Ortiz, 31, Malagon Camacho's sister-in-law; and Ortiz's 9-year-old daughter, Raquel Malagon Camacho. Two boys, ages 3 and 10 -- one of whom lost his leg below the knee -- were hospitalized in serious condition.

Sisters Yuri Camacho, 23, and Virginia Camacho, 21, who were not involved in the accident, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court, said Federico Sayre, the Santa Ana-based lawyer representing them.

"As you can imagine for anyone that has lost their parents and younger brother, they are devastated," Sayre said. "What we do in these cases is try and move forward for discovery to find why this tire is manufactured in a defective manner."

The Ford F-150 driven by Malagon Ortiz had a type and model of tire that was recalled in 2002 but was purchased new last year, Sayre said. The tire, a Continental Contitrac AW P275/60R17, was recalled because of a defect that could cause the tread to detach, prompting a driver to "lose control of the vehicle, possibly resulting in a vehicle crash, personal injury or death," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records show.

"[Our] thoughts and well wishes are with the families involved in the accident in California," T.J. McKinney, a spokesman for the company based in Charlotte, N.C., said Wednesday.

"At this time we have not had the opportunity to inspect the tires or the vehicle involved" but "will take all necessary steps to thoroughly investigate this matter."

CHP Officer Sean Cooper said the tires are being considered as a factor in the investigation, which he cautioned is in its early stages, and that no conclusions had been reached.

"We still have about 60 to 90 days at least before we complete the work," he said.

"We are looking into all factors that would have contributed to this traffic collision."

jonathan.abrams@latimes.com

Times staff writer H.G. Reza contributed to this report.

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