June 05, 2017

Stephen Eimers knows their names. It’s a list that starts with his daughter, who was killed late last year when her vehicle struck a guardrail end in Tennessee.  

For now, the list ends with George Jansen, a Cincinnati native and Milacron employee who died in a crash in February in Missouri. Jansen was on his way to work when he was impaled in a crash by the same type of guardrail end that killed Eimers' daughter, an X-Lite made by Lindsay Transportation Solutions. 

It's a device Eimers insists is dangerous.

He's on a cross-country crusade to rid the roads of the device, which is designed to absorb the energy of a crash, but has, in some cases, turned the guardrail into a spear.

But how did the X-Lite end up on highways? The answer involves complex testing, a half-billion dollar lawsuit and the desire by states to have competitive bidding.

Six people have died in crashes involving the guardrail end, but Eimers’ suspects several more.

“When I discovered George’s accident,” Eimers said. “I called the funeral home and said ‘You’ve got to call this family and let them know this should not have happened.’ I found the obituary and I called his priest, and I said, ‘You’ve got to let Mrs. Jansen know.’”

When Eimers spoke to The Enquirer, he was on his way from his rural Tennessee farm to meet with New York state Sen. Catharine Young in Albany. Young, who represents a rural corner of southwestern New York state, has proposed a ban and removal of all X-Lites there.

So far, Eimers is satisfied that 30 states don’t use the X-Lite or have committed to removing them.

“I’m down to 20 states,” he said. His home state announced this year to replace X-Lites, a project that could cost $3.6 million. After Jansen's death, the Missouri Department of Transportation said in April it will replace all of its X-Lite ends after learning they don't perform "as we believe they're designed to."

Around the time Eimers’ 17-year-old daughter, Hannah, was killed, two other local young people had been murdered and a third died in a hunting accident. At first, this helped him put Hannah’s death in perspective.

“At least in Hannah’s accident, there’s no bad guy here,” Eimers recalled thinking at the time. “Then we were robbed of that. That may not sound like much …  but that’s an awful lot to be robbed of.

“I’ve got to be able to look that next mother or father in the eyes who's lost a child to an accident, or a husband or a wife, and say I did every last thing that I could do.”

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