First lawsuit filed in deadly church van crash

By James Valles – email | Facebook | Twitter

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) --  The family of a 20-year-old woman who lost her life in an October 3rd fatal church van crash has filed  a wrongful death lawsuit.

The church van crash injured fifteen and killed four members of Columbus' Tabernacle of Prayer and Deliverance Church. The group was heading to a revival in Florida when investigators say the rear tire blew out, causing the van to flip over.

In the 11-page wrongful death lawsuit, filed this morning in Russell County, Horace Walton, the suit's plaintiff and father of Jennifer Walton, 20, claims Chrysler, the maker of the 1986 Dodge 15-passenger van knowingly designed, manufactured, and distributed a van intended for carrying cargo not passengers.

The suit also alleges Phenix City based, The R & J Tire Company, failed to properly inspect and sold a Michelin tire that was placed on the van, which later blew out in the accident.

A spokesman for Chrysler tells News Leader Nine the company has yet to receive the lawsuit and adds there's never a good outcome when vans are overcrowded and passengers fail to wear seatbelts. He went on to say the vehicle exceeds all federal safety standards and has an excellent safety record.

The Walton family is seeking monetary compensation and wants to make sure others are aware of what they call the dangers of these vans.

As of Friday afternoon, the owner of The R&J Tire Company had no comment.