The families of two Arizona women who died last year in Utah when their ATV caught fire after tipping over have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that made the vehicle: Polaris Industries.
They allege in a lawsuit filed this month that a defect in the Ranger 800 model caused gasoline to come pouring out and engulf Destiny Dixon, 28, and Debbie Swann, 51, in flames before they could unbuckle their seatbelts.
The lawsuit, filed in Minnesota where Polaris has its headquarters, seeks an undisclosed amount of damages.
Polaris is saddened by the tragic accident but stands behind the design of the Ranger, said company spokeswoman Kelly Basgen. She noted in a statement sent by email that the Sept. 2, 2016, roll-over occurred on a "highly technical and very extreme riding area commonly known as the Tip-Over Challenge.' "
"The 2010 Ranger complies with all applicable standards and is safely designed for its intended use," Basgen said.
The women died on an ATV path known as "Hell's Revenge Trail" near Moab, Utah, a popular tourist destination with a system of trails that draw ATV enthusiasts from all over.
Dixon, from Prescott, Arizona, and Swann, from Apache Junction, Arizona, were part of a group of friends out riding that day, said Eric Olson, the Salt Lake City attorney representing the families.
Dixon was driving the ATV with Swann in the passenger seat as they went slowly through a challenging section of the trail, Olson said in the lawsuit. The ATV tipped slowly over on the passenger side and slid backward.
Within seconds, gasoline started leaking to ignite a fire that spread so fast that the women didn't have time to get out, according to the lawsuit.
"They were burned to death before they could release their seat belts," Olson wrote in the lawsuit.
Swann leaves behind a longtime boyfriend and two children. Dixon is survived by her mother, Olson said.
The lawsuit said the sheriff's investigators determined that the fuel neck hit the ground and broke, leading to the gas leak.
The fuel tank in the ATV is located too close to where riders sit and is not properly shielded to protect it from breaking in roll-overs, the lawsuit contends.
This is the third lawsuit Olson has filed against Polaris for issues with their ATVs. He said his other two lawsuits involved people who were seriously burned but survived. Olson's law firm's website has a separate page on dedicated to Polaris vehicle files that includes links to several recalls of the company's ATVs in recent years.
Just this month, there were two Polaris recalls. About 51,000 vehicles were recalled due to a heat shield that can fall off and cause fires, which led to 13 reported incidents and five reported fires. Another 3,800 ATVs were recalled to problems with an electronic power steering that can be a crash hazard.
"It's a big problem. These machines are really popular," Olson said. "I think a lot of people don't know about the risks."