GM Car Victims' Families Mourn Together Over Lost Loved Ones

By Susanna Kim - ABC News

GM Car Victims' Families Mourn Together Over Lost Loved Ones

April 1, 2014 Updated Apr 1, 2014 at 2:28 PM EST

(ABC News) -- Natasha Weigel, who died in a Chevy Cobalt on Oct. 24, 2006, when she was 18 years old, had worn only two dresses during the time that her stepfather, Ken Rimer, knew her.

"Natasha was a tomboy from the day I met her," Rimer told ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis. "She only wore a dress twice that I knew of -- our wedding was one. And the only other time was when she had to wear a dress for school. She was a jock-head as well. Wearing sweats and the hoodies, that was her life. But you know it was just the start of her life. Unfortunately, she's not with us anymore."

More than a dozen families of victims who died in accidents involving cars in a massive General Motors recall have shared stories like this with CEO Mary Barra and with lawmakers this week.

Weigel was "the apple of my wife's eye. ... Her only child," Rimer said, explaining that Weigel and her two friends had visited another friend's house in Wisconsin, made a stop to go shopping and were returning home.

Weigel's friend, Megan Phillips, 17, was behind the wheel of the 2005 Chevy Cobalt when the vehicle's ignition switch turned from the "run" position to the "accessory" position, leading the car to lose all power steering, power braking and the airbag's ability to deploy, according to a lawsuit filed by their families. The families filed the suit last month in Minnesota District Court against General Motors and the Rosedale Chevrolet car dealership.

Rimer said the car veered off the road and ultimately hit a telephone junction box and two trees.

"They went air-bound over a driveway and within five seconds of the car shutting off, they collided with a set of trees, which caused the fatal accident," Rimer said.

Weigel later died from her injuries while Phillips experienced "severe brain injury and severe crushing injuries resulting in multiple fractures of bones in her body including chest, face, legs and arms," according to the lawsuit.

Their 15-year old friend Amy Rademaker was in the front passenger seat and died one week before her 16th birthday.

Her father, Randal Rademaker, wore a t-shirt with his daughter's image at her funeral and on Monday on Capitol Hill.

"This is only the second time I ever wore it. The first time was at her funeral," Rademaker told ABC News.

Rademaker recalled his late daughter's "crazy," mismatching style.

"She wouldn't even want to have matching clothes. She was always a little off the wall in this or that -- just a lot of fun. And it all ended that night," Rademaker said.

Other victims were also young sons and daughters, girlfriends and boyfriends.

Richard Scott Bailey, a U.S. Marine from Phoenix, Ariz., was 18 years old when he died driving a 2007 Chevy Cobalt on April 21, 2008. Bailey was in training to be a radio operator with his squad, according to the Arizona Republic. His mother wiped away tears while lawmakers such as Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., held up her son's picture on Capitol Hill today. Blumenthal and other lawmakers have asked why it has taken seven years for an official recall.

Amber Marie Rose has been called the first known victim of the car defect. After a party on July 29, 2005, the 15-year old died in a crash involving a 2005 Chevy Cobalt in which the airbag did not deploy.

Laura Christian, her mother, had just started to reconnect with her daughter after giving her up for adoption as an infant.

“I am absolutely appalled they waited this long,” Christian, 43, said of General Motors to the New York Daily News from Harwood, Md.

Rademaker said he wants GM to get Cobalts off the road for good.

Barra apologized to the families in person during the meeting on Monday night, but Rademaker and Rimer say it's not enough.

"As Christians, you know, we still feel for one another. And she was sincere in her apologies," Rimer said, calling her first apology to the families "heartfelt."

"On the other hand, we've got such open wounds and sores from losing loved ones, the apology is accepted but it's still not the answer that we need," Rimer said.




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