Attorney: NC family reaches settlement with Ford over limo deaths

Updated: January 18, 2006, 7:15 PM ET
Associated Press

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A family has settled its lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. stemming from a rear-end collision where a limousine erupted into flames, killing the wife of a former NASCAR crew chief and her two sisters, lawyers for both sides said Wednesday.

Neither side would disclose terms ending a wrongful-death lawsuit over the safety of the fuel-tank system in Lincoln Town Car limousines, which are manufactured by Ford.

The three women were stopped in traffic on Interstate 40 in Greensboro on Sept. 10, 2003, after attending a concert. A pickup truck driven by Jeffrey Niles McFayden rammed into the back of their limousine, which exploded almost immediately and trapped them inside.

Tara Howell Parker, 29, her stepsister Mysti Howell Poplin, 24, and her half sister Megan Elizabeth Howell, 16, died of smoke inhalation and burns suffered in the fire. Parker was the wife of NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett's former crew chief.

Brenda and Ricky Howell, the women's parents, alleged in their lawsuit that the Lincoln Town Car was defective because the fuel tank was behind the rear axle, which increased the risk of fire in rear-end collisions. They said Ford could have fixed the problem by distributing a safety shield to protect the fuel tank.

McFayden was convicted in May of three counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Ford spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes blamed the deaths on the driver, who collided with the limo at 60 mph.

"Unfortunately, there is no vehicle on the road that can adequately protect people in such collisions," Vokes said. "We do not believe any other comparable vehicles' fuel tanks could have survived the severity of this impact."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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