Firestone Probe May Be Reopened

The Firestone Steeltex tires, found on many rescue vehicles, vans, pickups and SUV's, were cleared in a federal probe last April.

Now, CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports that the government will decide whether to reopen the investigation based on a petition from a lawyer who says there's new evidence of catastrophic failures in thousands of complaints, hundreds of serious injuries and 11 deaths.

"This particular problem is now spreading across the United States as the information spreads from emergency department to emergency department," says Joseph Lisoni, a class action attorney.

It was a CBS News investigation in March 2001 that first examined Steeltex tire failures on rescue vehicles in places like Georgia, where Bruce Joyner, a Palmetto ambulance mechanic in Augusta, says his tire lasted approximately three weeks.

In Arizona, Chief Joe Jackson of the Pinion Pine Fire Department said, "Just all of a sudden this tremendous noise, pow, and it was just it was almost like something coming apart on the back of the truck."

While Wayne Hollis, former member of the Kansas board of emergency medical services, claimed there were 18 cases in Kansas alone.

At least two trade publications issued national alerts, advising rescuers to carefully check their Firestone tires. The CBS investigation also raised questions about how Firestone counts claims. It bundled those 18 rescue vehicle complaints from Kansas into one single complaint, then wrote it off entirely as unfounded.

Firestone responded today by pointing out Steeltex tires were cleared in a "rigorous" federal investigation last April, which found "relatively low failure frequencies". The tire manufacturer adds that it has also improved its data tracking system, "We are constantly evaluating our tires and are committed to taking action if it is warranted. In this case it is not."

Since the government closed its investigation into Firestone Steeltex tires, complaints about them have allegedly tripled to nearly three thousand. Investigators say they'll consider any new evidence, and reopen their probe if warranted.