Grieving father's fight against guardrails heads to nation's capitol
A grieving East Tennessee father is taking his fight to Washington, D.C., looking for justice in his daughter’s death.
17-year-old Hannah Eimers was killed late last year after her car left I-75 and struck a Lindsay X-Lite guardrail terminal. The rail impaled her car, killing her instantly.
Her father, Stephen, has been fighting to have X-Lites removed from Tennessee roads. TDOT recently agreed to remove all 1,800 devices. The department cited growing concerns about the device's performance in crashes about 45 miles per hour.
Now, Eimers is asking federal officials to rescind the letter of authorization for the X-Lite model.
“We are calling on the Federal Highway Administration, for the first time in their history, to rescind a letter of approval,” Eimers told reporters at McGhee Tyson airport before flying to Washington D.C. on Tuesday. “The Lindsay X-Lite is extraordinarily dangerous, and it needs to come off our highways, not just in Tennessee.”
A federal DOT spokesperson was not able to verify if the department had never revoked an approval letter, but did say it has not happened in at least 20 years.
Eimers is scheduled to meet with staff from the Federal Highway Administration and representatives of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). AASHTO has no regulatory power, but passes along information to member states. The group previously shared TDOT’s open letter outlining concerns with the X-Lite.
Eimers will present the DOT with a letter signed by families of those killed in X-Lite crashes. At least 7 deaths have been linked to X-Lites -- 4 in Tennessee, 2 in Missouri and 1 in Virginia.
The group writes that they have been “victimized by the Lindsay Corporation and the negligence and indifference of additional parties.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Eimers family,” wrote a Lindsay spokesperson in response. “Safety is our number one priority at Lindsay Transportation Solutions. The X-Lite guardrail end terminal has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with FHWA standards and criteria, and remains qualified for use on America’s roadways.”
Eimers has been asking Lindsay to voluntarily suspend sales pending an investigation, but the company has so far declined.
Eimers was previously invited to testify in Nashville before the House transportation committee.
This is not the first time these families have petitioned the federal government. Earlier in April, family members of Lauren Beuttel and Wilbert Byrd joined Eimers in the open letter to President Trump, the Secretary of Transportation and the acting director of the Federal Highway Administration that also asked for a revocation of the X-Lite model's approval.
Eimers said the growing death toll should be proof enough that the X-Lite is not safe. He believes the data should force officials to act.
“We have the evidence on our side,” said Eimers. “But ultimately, I am just one David fighting a pretty big Goliath. We shall see.”
He said this is about much more than his daughter now. He hopes to see safety on U.S. roads improve overall.
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil,” said Eimers. “Not to act is to act. Not to speak is to speak. I have to speak.”
TDOT awarded contracts for the removal of X-Lites last week. Work has not begun yet, said spokesperson Mark Nagi. Replacement is projected to cost about $4.6 million.
TDOT had no comment on Mr. Eimers’ trip to D.C.
Read the full statement from Lindsay Corporation below:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Eimers family. Safety is our number one priority at Lindsay Transportation Solutions. The X-Lite guardrail end terminal has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with FHWA standards and criteria, and remains qualified for use on America’s roadways. As experts such as FHWA have pointed out, there are impact conditions that exceed the performance expectations of all road safety equipment, and the equipment’s inability to singly prevent every tragedy does not indicate a flaw or defect. A variety of factors, including whether road safety equipment is installed and maintained in accordance with the AASHTO Roadside Design Guide, can affect the severity of an impact. While federal crash testing is intended to assess a variety of conditions, no test can replicate every possible scenario.”