About 8:15 a.m. eastern standard time on February 21, 2014, a 2002 Ford E-350 XLT Super Duty 15-passenger van was traveling northbound on Interstate 75 (I-75) near Lake City, Columbia County, Florida. The van—operated by the First Baptist Church of New Port Richey, Floridawas transporting three adults and seven children, ranging in age from 11 to 16 years old, to a church camp in Covington, Georgia. During the trip, the driver of the van became concerned by a vibration he perceived to be coming from one of the vehicle’s tires, and he pulled off the highway into a rest area to investigate. Finding nothing visibly wrong, he continued on the trip.
After traveling an additional 13 miles on I-75, the driver lost control of the vehicle when the left rear tire experienced a complete tire tread separation near US Route 90. (See figure 1 for the approximate location of the crash.) The tire carcass remained inflated following the tread separation. The van moved to the right as it rotated counter-clockwise; departed the roadway onto a grassy, sloped embankment; and rolled 270 degrees about its longitudinal axis. During the rollover, the driver, one adult passenger, and two children were ejected from the vehicle. The two ejected adults died as a result of the crash. The remaining van occupants received various injuries and were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Following the crash, it was determined that the left rear tire had been subject to a manufacturer-initiated recall.