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Jeep Crash Survivors Push NHTSA For More Action

10:22 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- Ana Pina lives with the constant discomfort that few of us will ever understand.

"That's real, and that is still painful," she says as she points to her burn scars.

With skin grafts on her arms and legs an d burns over 34 percent of her body,  she flew to Washington to share the story of what happened when her 2000 Jeep Cherokee was hit from behind on an Indiana highway.

She made the long, arduous journey in hopes that no one else will have her pain.

"My little kids, they say, 'Mommy, when you gonna be normal like me?  Like everybody else?'," she says.

Her words may have been the most compelling in the closed door meeting with NHTSA Administrator David Strickland because her vehicle has not been recalled.

When the government expanded its investigation into the safety of certain Jeep models linked to fires and deaths, in part, because of the placement of the gas tanks.

Ana's Cherokee was part of that group, but not part of the group of vehicles that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Chrysler to recall.

And, when Chrysler recently announced a deal to recall the SUVs, it only agreed to call back and repair the 1993 to 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberty models.

"When the kids like Remy Walden are dying in child seats in the 1999 to 2004 Jeeps, we do not have an adequate recall," says the Center for Auto Safety's Clarence Ditlow.

Those vehicles are only going to be inspected by Chrysler as part of a service campaign.  Expanding the recall is only one of the concerns addressed today.

Former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook says the trailer hitch that Chrysler has proposed as a fix to better protect the gas tank in these Jeeps needs to undergo a series of tests.

NHTSA says it will evaluate the fix.

Claybrook says, "I don't think anyone can rely on the safety of this vehicle unless it's crash tested with this fix.  I think you would have to crash test the vehicles because otherwise you really don't know whether their remedy works."

Safety advocates don't believe that hitch will protect a gas tank in the event of a crash.  And, that's why they are pushing for those tests.

Clarence Ditlow shows the fuel tank from a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee.  It was crash tested and paid for by the Center for Auto Safety, and hit a 40 miles an hour.

You can see the gash in the fuel tank that resulted.  It was crucial evidence that the Center for Auto Safety used to make the case that the gas tanks were vulnerable in a crash.

Ana hopes that the agency does whatever is necessary to get to the bottom of the safety issues that have altered so many lives, including hers.

"They say, 'Oh, the car don't have no problem or nothing.  And I say look, I am here. To be like that is not nice.  It's so painful," she says.

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