Petition seeking action on Jeeps
Posted: January 28, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Jenelle Embrey of Linden hopes to prevent future tragedies involving Jeep Cherokee vehicles through an online petition.
The 46-year-old Frederick County native witnessed a fatal crash on Oct. 5 that claimed the lives of Staunton residents Heather Lee Santor, 39, and Acoye Marcouis Breckenridge, 18, on Interstate 81 near Kernstown.
Embrey and her father, Harry Hamilton Sr. of Kernstown, were stopped in construction traffic on the interstate when the vehicle behind Embrey’s PT Cruiser — a 1998 Jeep Cherokee driven by Santor — was hit from behind by a tractor-trailer, causing the Jeep to catch fire.
A similar accident occurred on in June 2011 on Martinsburg Pike in Frederick County when Mark and Amanda Roe of Stephenson and their two young sons were killed when their 1994 Jeep Cherokee burst into flames after being hit from behind by a drunken driver.
In a phone interview Friday, Embrey said her petition asks the federal government to recall Chrysler Jeep Cherokees manufactured between 1993 and 2004 due to what she believes is a design flaw that causes the vehicles to catch fire if hit from behind.
“Since that horrific accident back on Oct. 5, and before then when the Roe family died, I’ll never forget reading about that in The Star and how horrific it sounded,” Embrey said. “You’re sitting at a stoplight one moment and then burning to death.”
Embrey’s research indicates that 287 people have died in 202 fiery crashes involving Jeep Cherokees produced between 1993 and 2004.
“When they’re rear-ended, even at low speeds as low as 40 mph, people have died in fires,” she said. “I’ve researched Jeep fires and come across so many cases where children have burned to death in their child seats in the back.”
The petition — addressed to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — claims that the placement of the gas tank behind the rear axle is unsafe and increases the risk of a fire breaking out if the vehicle is rear-ended.
Embrey said that she wants to present her petition in person to Chrysler and government officials once it reaches 100,000 signatures. As of Sunday evening, the petition had 249 signatures.
“I know for a fact that there’s someone out there about to die in a Jeep fire because it happens occasionally,” Embrey said. “If this petition is successful maybe we can change their destiny, stop it from happening.
“I feel like I have to do something. I can’t witness something like that and not do anything.”
Additional information on the petition is available online at change.org/DangerousJeeps.
— Contact Matt Armstrong at email@example.com