The families of eight Utah State University (USU) students killed in the rollover of a school van last year and two survivors of the accident have sued DaimlerChrysler Corp. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., alleging faulty workmanship.
The lawsuit, filed Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, claims that while the 1994 Dodge Ram 3500 van was traveling east on Interstate 84 in Box Elder, Utah, the tread peeled off a tire-identified in the suit as a Wildcat LT All-Terrain made by Cooper-causing the van's driver to lose control and the vehicle to roll over several times when it left the roadway.
In addition, the suit alleges the 15-passenger vehicle had a dangerously high center of gravity and an unsafe seat belt design.
The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages. The suit did not specify the tire size nor say what wheel position the tire that separated occupied.
The Wildcat line is part of Cooper's Dean Tire associate brand program, according to the Dean Web site.
In a statement, Cooper said: ``All evidence indicates that this tragic accident was caused by factors unrelated to the quality of Cooper tires.
``Reports from both the (National Traffic Safety Board) and the Utah Highway Patrol concluded that the van was overloaded, traveling at almost 100 miles per hour, that the tires showed signs of underinflation and that, unfortunately, not a single occupant was wearing seat belts as required by Utah law.
``This horrible event has deeply affected the Utah State University community. Cooper Tire expresses its deepest sympathy to the victims and their families. We continue to investigate the events leading up to the crash and to cooperate with all governmental agencies.''
A DaimlerChrysler spokesman said the accident was caused by a series of circumstances-including excessive speed, overloading and tire failure-that had nothing to do with the company or the vehicle. In addition, he noted none of the passengers was wearing a seat belt.
The accident occurred Sept. 26, 2005, when USU instructor Evan Parker, who was driving the van, and 10 agricultural students were on their way back to the USU campus in Logan, Utah, from a field trip.
Six were pronounced dead at the scene. Three later died in hospitals. Mr. Parker was among the deceased.