Natasha Dannov, by all accounts a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky teenager from Fountain Valley, died early Sunday morning in an auto accident on the Interstate 5 when the 2000 Ford Explorer she was a passenger in, rolled over near Oceanside.
According to an article in The Orange County Register, Dannov’s best friend of 10 years, Marian Teri Kahale, also 18, who was driving the Explorer at the time, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular manslaughter.
The girls had reportedly gone to a party Saturday night at Mission Viejo where they had been drinking, according to Dannov’s mother, Isabelle, who was quoted in the Register article. Around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, the teens were on their way home when Kahale realized she was heading south near Oceanside on the I-5 instead of north. It was around that time that Kahale reportedly lost control of the sport utility vehicle.
The Explorer careened off the freeway, overturned and struck a guardrail ejecting Dannov, who was sleeping in the car without wearing her seatbelt. She was pronounced dead at the scene by Camp Pendleton fire officials, the newspaper reported. Kahale survived with moderate injuries, but was arrested and detained with bail set at $250,000. The state Alcohol Beverages Control Board and the CHP are also reportedly looking into who provided alcohol to the teens over a 24-hour period before the crash. Both were obviously underage.
This is yet another tragic incident that is heartbreaking not only for the Dannov family, but also the Kahale family given how close the two girls were. It seems as if a lot of young people think they are invincible when it comes to drunk driving. There is the general feeling and attitude of: “It won’t happen to me” or “I can handle it.” These are but illusions. An impaired driver is just that – someone who will not be able to handle the vehicle and puts not only his or her life in jeopardy, but also the passengers riding with them as well as other drivers on the road.
In this case, it is reported that both girls were intoxicated and not wearing their seatbelts. But the Dannov family would be well-advised to hire a reputed personal injury firm to conduct an independent investigation of the accident, especially because it was another Ford Explorer rollover fatality accident.
The police investigation may eventually tell us why this particular accident happened and what the cause was, but as personal injury attorneys, we see way too many Ford Explorer rollover catastrophic injury cases. It has been proven time and time again by crash experts that the vehicle itself is unstable.
The structure of the vehicle and its restraint systems do not adequately protect the front seat occupants from the roof crushing in on them. Ford maintains that their vehicles’ roofs are not weak. Our California firm has been involved in over a dozen product liability lawsuits against Ford for Explorer rollover catastrophic injuries. We have investigated about three times as many.
Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of an automobile defect that has caused injury needs to protect their best evidence of the suspected defect, the automobile itself. It must be kept unaltered and protected from the elements until your attorneys have it inspected by experts. Photographing is not nearly enough.
It’s our belief that in most of these accidents – whatever the cause may have been – the Ford Explorer is an unsafe vehicle. A better built and designed vehicle most likely would have had a much better outcome. We’ve even seen instances of the seatbelt system in the Explorer failing because of a faulty seat belt buckle design. The vehicle is just too big and too unstable, especially for young, inexperienced drivers.