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Ford recalling millions of vehicles because of faulty switches

  • Story Highlights
  • Earl Mohlis says faulty cruise control switch caused fire that killed his wife
  • Ford denies the switch started the blaze; company settled Mohlis' lawsuit
  • Ford has recalled more than 10 million vehicles in past decade
  • CNN in 2005 began airing investigative reports on sudden fires in Ford vehicles
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(CNN) -- Two years after his wife of 34 years died in a fire, an Iowa man continues to maintain the blaze was started by a faulty cruise control switch under the hood of her 1996 Ford F-150 pickup -- while it was parked in the garage attached to his home.

Ford says a faulty cruise control switch did not start the blaze that engulfed Dolly Mohlis' F-150 truck.

Although Ford has denied -- and continues to deny -- the switch started the fire that killed 74-year-old Dolly Mohlis in 2005, the company recently settled a lawsuit brought against it by Earl Mohlis. And last week, it issued a recall of an estimated 3.6 million vehicles -- bringing the total recalled over the past decade to more than 10 million -- every single car and truck built with a similar cruise control switch.

Dolly Mohlis woke up smelling smoke in May 2005, Earl Mohlis has told CNN. She woke him to find out the source while she called 911. When he looked in the garage, he said, he saw the truck was in flames.

Earl Mohlis said he opened the garage door to try to get the truck out, but the wind -- blowing that night at about 50 mph -- fanned the flames, which spread to the house.

The fire department in the Mohlises' rural town could not arrive fast enough. Dolly Mohlis, who suffered from debilitating arthritis, was suddenly trapped inside the home.

"I says to Dolly, 'You got to get out of that house,' " Earl Mohlis told CNN. "She come a-running, and she never made it." Video Watch Mohlis describe how the flames trapped his wife »

In 2005, CNN began airing a series of investigative reports on unexplained and sudden fires in Ford cars and trucks. They found that a tiny electrical switch in the cruise control system could lead to the vehicle catching fire, even hours after the car was turned off. Although Ford had begun recalling the parts in some vehicles in 1999, a sweeping recall was not issued until earlier this month.

Ford says media reports like those on CNN have sparked fear among Ford owners. The newly recalled vehicles, a Ford spokesman told CNN, do not have "a higher-than-normal fire incidence."

Asked about the recall, a Ford spokesman told CNN the company was voluntarily announcing the recall because it "could not be confident about the long-term durability of these switches" and to address consumer concerns about the potential for fires.

CNN has learned, however, that federal investigators were continuing to observe what one safety official said were elevated levels of suspect fires in Ford vehicles that had not been the subject of a recall. Since the cruise control switch was introduced in 1992, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had documented more than 600 blazes.


The safety official said investigators with NHTSA were discussing safety concerns with Ford when the company announced the massive recall last week.

Neither Mohlis nor Ford released terms of the settlement, but Mohlis told the Des Moines Register he still cries for his wife every day. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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