Fatal crash raises concerns about guardrail

A fatal accident in South Texas is raising concerns again about a controversial guardrail system.

The accident happened last month in Corpus Christi and the scene looks eerily similar to others involving the Triinty Guardrail System.

Witnesses say the former Corpus Christi priest who was driving never had a chance.

"What I did notice was the, uh, guardrail burrowing in his vehicle, and pretty much a piece of metal flying in front of him into the ground," said crash witness Art Amaro.

The police report states, "The car came to rest with a portion of the guardrail in and through the vehicle."

That's because the head of the guardrail sheared off and was tossed across a field almost 100 feet away.

Whistleblower Josh Harman visited the site right after the accident. He says it was a modified Trinity E.T. Plus.

"The guardrail went right through the car and went through him," said Harman. "It gets to you after a while."

Harman sat down with FOX 4 this week to talk about his four-year journey to try to get the Trinity product off the highways.

In October of last year, an East Texas jury found Dallas-based Trinity Industries defrauded taxpayers for failing to disclose design changes. Victims claim in lawsuits that those changes caused the guardrail to lock up and impale the vehicle.  

After eight months of mediation, the judge issued the final penalty. Trinity will pay $663 million -- $199 million goes to Harman and the federal government gets the rest.

Trinity is appealing. A spokesman for the guardrail maker says, "The company believes the evidence clearly shows that no fraud was committed" and that "the trial court made significant errors in applying the federal law to Mr. Harman's allegations and, therefore, the judgment is erroneous and should be reversed in its entirety."

This week, Trinity posted a $686 million bond. Meanwhile, Harman is focused on Washington, D.C.

He says there is concern over the crash tests conducted earlier this year.

The Federal Highway Administration says the Trinity system passed, but Harman disagrees, claiming the eighth test was a failure. He says Washington is listening.

Harman has crisscrossed the country for years, documenting accidents like this latest one in South Texas.

Trinity says guardrails are designed to make a bad crash less severe, and it is very difficult to say any guardrail failed to do what it was designed to do without knowing the vehicle's speed, road conditions, state of the driver, and installation and repair.

Harman says it was never about the money. He won't stop until there is a full product recall.

"You know, I've got a verdict," he said. "I've got a judgment. I've got all that and I could go home, but the fact is until that product recall, people are dying. That has been my goal since day one. I have not lost sight of that goal. That goal has to be achieved through any means necessary."

The Texas Department of Transportation told FOX 4 it is not using the Trinity system on new installations but still has no plans to remove any of the existing guardrail systems on the highway.

It will follow the lead of the Federal Highway Administration.

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