Families want action after guardrail ends malfunction, killing daughters

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There is a type of guardrail end that is being blamed for deaths nationwide and one state has taken the drastic measure of removing them from highways.

It's happening in North Carolina, but state officials could not tell Channel 9 reporter Dave Faherty where those guardrails are located.

Ladeana Gambill and Stephen Eimers lost daughters in separate crashes involving the Lindsay X-lite guardrail end.

It has been more than a year since Gambill's daughter died.

The home’s living room is filled with pictures of Gambill’s 21-year-old daughter.

"It ended up being the last day I saw her alive," Gambill said.

Gambill and Eimers believe that in their daughters' crashes, the guardrail end malfunctioned, causing it to pierce the car instead of collapsing backward and absorbing the impact.

"Guardrails are not supposed to enter vehicles, period,” Eimers said. “I know the math on this device. It fails at an astonishing rate."

"I believe that the guardrail end piece malfunctioned and led to the death of my daughter," Gambill said.
"I really don't want to see other parents suffer like I have."

Dash cam video of a third crash in Tennessee shows Wilbur Byrd dying after the same type of guardrail end splintered the vehicle.

The state of Tennessee is spending millions of dollars to remove the terminals after sending a letter to the Federal Highway Administration.

[READ: Letter from Tennessee officials to Federal Highway Administration]

It cites "unclear installation instructions and performance that does not provide adequate protection of motorists."

Lindsay Transportation Solutions created a video of how the guardrail end is supposed to work.

Company officials said the terminals have "successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with federal standards, adding that "there is no road safety product that can prevent injury every time a driver fails to stay on the road."

Lindsay Transportation Solutions' full statement:

"X-LITE has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with Federal standards and criteria and remains eligible for Federal transportation funding. There is no road safety product that can prevent injury every time a driver fails to stay on the road, X-LITE's inability to singly prevent every tragedy is not a defect and does not mean X-LITE is unsafe. A variety of factors contributes to the potential for injury when a driver fails to stay on the road, including speed in excess of Federal testing criteria, the angle at which a vehicle makes impact, and whether road safety products are installed and maintained properly.

There have been seven reported deaths in Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia tied to guardrail ends.

In North Carolina, the state identified two deadly crashes in Charlotte but both times the guardrail end did not pierce the vehicle.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation couldn't tell Channel 9 the exact number of X-Lites on roads in the state.

"Do you guys know where they are?” Faherty asked state traffic engineer Kevin Lacy.

“No, we do not have an inventory of our guardrail ends," Lacy said.

Faherty asked why they don’t have that information.

"Because the costs to create and maintain the quality that the data is accurate is greater than what we believe the benefit to the public would be," Lacy said.

Just recently, DOT looked at guardrail ends involved in deadly crash and linked several deaths to other manufacturers.

On July 1, North Carolina state officials implemented new safety standards and is no longer replacing damaged guardrail ends with the X-Lites, but unlike Tennessee, is not removing them from state roads.

"We're not choosing that route because what are you going to replace it with?” Lacy said. “There are other guardrail ends out there that happen to have severe injuries and fatalities as well"

Gambill and Eimers believe knowing the locations and types of guardrail ends is money the state should spend to help identify a potential problem with a device meant to save lives.

"Better record-keeping needs to occur to shed some more light on this situation," Gambill said.

"Gov. (Roy) Cooper needs to step up and he needs to call his DOT and say, ‘You will count them and you will at least monitor them,’" Eimers said.