Vicki Hill from Ohio was driving to work in her 2007 Jeep Liberty when she was rear-ended at a stop light. The fuel from her vehicle caught fire and firefighters were unable to rescue her from her Jeep because of the strength of the flames. Hill died due to injuries sustained in the incident.
Her death has renewed concerns that a federally-approved recall plan to prevent certain Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokees’ fuel tanks from catching on fire in rear-end crashes did not go far enough.
In 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that fuel tanks that are mounted between the bumper and the rear suspension in certain Jeep models were at risk of leaks and igniting in rear-end crashes. As a result of this finding, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles voluntarily offered to install trailer hitches on over a million 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty vehicles to shield the fuel tank. Hill’s vehicle was among those that had a trailer hitch installed as a part of the recall.
The recall in 2013 came after a series of fatal fires involving the Jeeps. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has linked more than 50 deaths to the Jeep recall.
Once Fiat Chrysler Automobiles recalled the Jeeps, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its investigation. Bloomberg News reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded the investigation in a memo finding that the trailer hitch provided “incremental safety benefits in certain low and moderate speed crash incidents,” but that the repair would not “necessarily be effective in the most severe crashes.”
Following the crash that claimed Hill’s life, Fiat Chrysler issued a statement that the 2007 Jeep Liberty “meets or exceeds all applicable federal safety standards.”