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French authorities raid Goodyear tyre sites in 'involuntary homicide' probe

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
French authorities raid Goodyear tyre sites in 'involuntary homicide' probe
Illustration photo of the Goodyear tyre plant in Amiens, northern France. Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP

Investigators were on Tuesday searching three European sites belonging to American tyre giant Goodyear, French prosecutors said, as part of an "involuntary homicides" probe of crashes caused by burst truck tyres.

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"Simultaneous searches, mostly digital, began on Tuesday morning at Goodyear in France, in Luxembourg and at the company's European HQ in Brussels," said Etienne Manteaux, prosecutor in Besancon in eastern France.

An investigating magistrate in Besancon had issued a request for international assistance, Manteaux said.

"The aim of these searches is to find out how much Goodyear knew about how dangerous the Marathon LHS II and Marathon LHS II+ tyres were and how many incidents it was made aware of," Manteaux told AFP.

Goodyear confirmed it was subject to searches and told AFP it was "cooperating fully" with the authorities.

Two truck drivers were killed on France's A36 motorway in July 2014 when one of them lost control of his vehicle when his tyres burst.

Sophie Rollet, whose husband Jean-Paul died in the accident, filed a criminal complaint against Goodyear in 2016 after carrying out her own investigation.

The case is one of three under investigation by Besancon magistrates involving trucks equipped with the Goodyear tyre models under suspicion, in which a total of four people died.

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All were caused by the front left tyre bursting, causing the drivers to lose control, according to investigators.

In each case, independent experts found that the tyres failed due to manufacturing defects in the metallic bands holding them together and the detachment of the tread.

Four more crash cases dating to 2011-14 have been added to the probe, although they are past the statute of limitations.

"Goodyear has never acknowledged a safety issue" even when pushed by truck builders Scania and Man, Manteaux said, while the manufacturers themselves urged operators to replace the affected tyres.

The company nevertheless launched an exchange programme for customers, dubbed "Tango", in 2014, he added.

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Goodyear "could have done a recall campaign, but this was a sales exchange: many companies didn't respond because they weren't told there was a safety problem," Manteaux said.

"If a recall programme had been put in place, one might think these people (who died after March 2014) might still be alive," he added.

A similar exchange scheme had been set up in Spain as early as 2013, Manteaux noted.

He added that a whistleblower had sent prosecutors "elements from Goodyear about compensation claims opened after similar incidents.

"There are many of them, in many European countries".

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