Updated: 03/24/2014 10:44 AM
Created: 03/23/2014 11:08 PM KAALtv.com
By: Hannah Tran
(ABC 6 News) -- Whenever Geneva resident Thomas Kerns sees a Chevrolet Cobalt, especially models from the early 2000's, he gets very uneasy.
"These are killer cars and they're on the highway," said Kerns
In recent weeks, Kerns has been reliving a nightmare that started nearly 8 years ago.
"The car was crushed pretty good," he said as he pointed to a picture of a completely wrecked, white car.
The picture contained the crushed remains of Kerns' 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. His daughter in law, Megan Phillips, was driving the car on October 24th, 2006, with her friends Natasha Weigel and Amy Rademaker. They were all in their teenage years when the Cobalt took a deadly flip into the air. Phillips was the lone survivor.
"When you're the driver of the vehicle and you lose someone, it doesn't matter if you know it's not your fault. It's something that tears you apart," said Kerns' wife, Sarah, who also experienced a fatal accident recently.
Fault speculation shifted to a defective ignition switch that Phillips was driving. At least 12 other fatalities in the nation point to this explanation as well. General Motors auto company is facing a significant lawsuit. Over a million of its cars were recalled.
"A lawsuit of this size is almost surreal," said Kerns.
Tests in the past showed that some Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5's had ignition switches that easily slid from a "run" position to a mode that stops power within the vehicle.
"The ignition cylinder was loose and it would turn to the accessory position while in drive," said Kerns.
The accessory mode is used when the car is at a standstill. It's usually parked, the power steering is off, the engine is off, but the driver is able to use the radio or open and close the car windows. Before Phillips' accident, the key somehow slipped back and turned the car into accessory mode. The car's power went off and Phillips lost control of the car. The car flipped over a driveway into a tree.
"So if you hit a bump, the potential for it to flip over to accessory mode was way easier," said Kerns.
In 2004, GM was aware of at least one similar report. Tests by engineers replicated this problem, but no action was made.
In 2005, a new ignition configuration was proposed, then later cancelled.
Also, in 2009, 14 Cobalt crashes were studied by experts. Databases showed that the ignition was in the accessory position for half of them.
Kerns calls them killer cars, but not only because of personal experiences. He sees a potential danger for the buyer, as well as the public.