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Government Investigates Seat Collapse in Chrysler Minivans

June 2, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A 2-year-old boy’s death in a Pennsylvania crash has prompted an investigation into possible rear-seat defects in some Chrysler minivans, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says.

Chrysler spokesman Tom Jakobowski said the company is cooperating but does not believe the seats are defective.

″We have 2 million-plus minivans out there, and we know of no specific problems with the rear seats,″ Jakobowski said Friday.

The investigation will focus on Dodge Caravans and Plymouth Voyagers manufactured in the 1986-89 model years, agency spokesman Tim Hurd said. It is classified as a preliminary evaluation, which consists mostly of paperwork.

If evidence of a widespread problem is found, the investigation will be upgraded and government engineers will study the possibly defective parts. Eventually, a recall could be ordered.

Chrysler manufactures more than half the minivans sold in the United States. Introduced in the 1984 model year, they are marketed as the Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country.

The government has received six complaints about the minivans involving three accidents, four injuries and one death, Hurd said.

Noah Z. George of Washington County, Pa., died Feb. 11 after the 1987 Voyager in which he was riding crashed. He was strapped in a booster seat secured to the rear seat by a seat belt.

The impact tore open the van’s rear lift gate and the back seat collapsed. Noah was thrown about 35 feet into a stream, where he died of exposure.

A coroner’s jury ruled the seat was ″flimsy and poorly constructed and is unsafe for public use,″ Farrell Jackson, coroner of Washington County, said in a letter to consumer activist Ralph Nader. Jackson called the minivans a ″potential death trap.″

Jakobowski said the minivans exceed federal standards for rear-seat construction.

But Mike Johnson, spokesman for the Nader-founded Center for Auto Safety, said the federal standards were inadequate. The minivans should be recalled and the seats reinforced, he said.

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