April 15, 2017

At least seven people have died after their vehicles struck a faulty type of guardrail end that passed its federal crash tests at a laboratory owned by the company selling the product.

Federal Highway Administration officials say it's not their job to police such potential conflicts of interest. Safety advocates say the case highlights a lack of oversight at the state and federal level.

“The foxes guard the hen houses,” said David Kwass, a personal injury attorney based in Philadelphia who is also a co-chairman of the American Association for Justice’s Guardrail Litigation Group. “There is no sunshine, and no accountability.”

The model of guardrail end, Lindsay Transportation Solutions’ X-LITE, has been tied to six crashes, causing seven deaths, in Tennessee, Missouri and Virginia over the past two years.

In at least three of those crashes, the product failed to perform properly, resulting in vehicles being skewered, state officials and experts have said. The product performed as intended in one of those crashes, and in the other two, authorities have not said how the guardrails performed.

One victim, Hannah Eimers of Lenoir City, was a 17-year-old aspiring filmmaker. Another, 21-year-old Lauren Beuttel of Johnson City, had recently accepted an offer to attend graduate school for psychology.

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