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Vehicle Involved in Indy Father's Death Was on Recall List

Steve Wagner


  • A car that was on a recall list for safety defects rolled into a northern Indianapolis retention pond with a 3-year-old inside. While the little girl survived the March 25th accident due to her father’s bravery, he drowned after saving her. Unfortunately, recall issues related to gear shifts had not been addressed.
  • In 2017, more than 600,000 vehicles on the road in Indianapolis had unfixed recalls on them, according to a vehicle safety analysis by Carfax.
  • Most recall safety issues relate to the brakes, engine, seatbelts, or the air bags and create significant safety concerns for the consumer and everyone they share the road with.
  • Despite reports of recalls, many defects go unnoticed and unfixed, leaving this opportunity to remind drivers to be better informed on all motor vehicle recall issues and to check VIN for updates on vehicle and vehicle-related recalls.

Vehicle Involved in Indy Father’s Death Was on Recall List

The attorneys and staff at Wagner Reese were saddened to hear that an Indy father who saved his young daughter from a car that rolled into a retention pond late last month, had died soon after bringing her to safety.

The Indy Star reported the story as follows. “On March 25, Anthony Burgess pulled into a parking spot at the Core Riverbend Apartments on Indianapolis’ north side. He put the Pontiac G6 in park, left it running, and got out of the vehicle to speak with a friend. His 3-year-old daughter got out of the car, too. He told her to get back into the car. Moments later the car was in the pond. Burgess jumped into the water and handed his daughter to a bystander who also had jumped in to help. Burgess went under. He was later pulled from the water but died at the hospital.”

Investigators on the incident made a recent discovery about a 2014 recall notice for the vehicle involved that may help answer questions how the gear shift moved out of park and caused the Pontiac to roll in the first place. The recall was related to a circuit problem that could allow the gear shift to move out of park without pushing the brake and could possibly be the cause of the tragic accident. The driver in this accident had borrowed the vehicle from someone else and it is unsure if the owner knew of the recall issue. Records from the U.S. Department of Transportation show the repair was never performed on the car.

Our thoughts are with this brave hero’s family and daughter during this time, and we agree with the sentiments and thoughtful reminder his family has been sharing to local news media, that people need to check their cars for recalls and get them fixed.

Indianapolis Has High Number of Unrepaired Recalled Vehicles Traveling Roads

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about three-out-of-every-10 vehicles on U.S. roads are operating on open, unrepaired recalls. Indianapolis drivers are guilty of contributing to that number. In 2017, more than 600,000 vehicles on the road in Indianapolis had unfixed recalls on them, (according to a vehicle safety analysis by Carfax) giving drivers a one-in-four chance that the vehicles traveling Indy’s city streets and highways have a recall on them.

Drivers expect to receive alerts about recalls from automakers. And since cars under warranty are often connected to dealerships who remind owners more often, they do not tend to check for themselves. As a preventative measure, vehicle owners should make sure their contact information is always up-to-date with their car’s manufacturer and local department of motor vehicles, no matter how old a car may be or where the vehicle was bought.

The Center for Auto Safety Recalls reports two reasons why car recalls occur:

  1. A safety defect exists
  2. There is a violation of a federal standard

Recalls typically stem from parts of the vehicle that most affect its safe operation like the brakes, tires, lighting or that protect drivers and passengers from death or serious injury in the event of a crash, such as air bags, safety belts, child restraints, energy absorbing steering columns, motorcycle helmets. We have a review of five of the largest vehicle recalls in history here.

How to Identify a Safety Problem With Your Vehicle

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has identified safety defects by recalling more than 299 million cars, trucks, buses, recreational vehicles, motorcycles and mopeds, as well as 43 million tires and 84 million pieces of motor vehicle equipment, including child seats, since 1966.

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966) gives the NHTSA the authority to issue vehicle safety standards and to require manufacturers to recall vehicles with safety-related defects or that do not meet safety standards. The NHTSA provides an easy to use website for updates on vehicle and vehicle-related recalls. All you need to know is your vehicle identification number (VIN) to use it.

Vehicle Identification Number (VIN)

Every vehicle has a unique VIN. Once you locate your 17-character VIN on the lower left of your car’s windshield, you can learn if a specific vehicle needs to be repaired as part of a recall. Your VIN is also located on your car’s registration card, and it may be shown on your insurance card. The NHTSA has provided these FAQs to learn more about the recall online portal.

What is included in an online VIN search?

  • Vehicle safety recalls that are incomplete
  • Vehicle safety recalls conducted over the past 15 calendar years
  • Vehicle safety recalls conducted by major light auto automakers, including motorcycle manufacturers

What is NOT included in an online VIN search?

  • Completed safety recall information
  • Manufacturer customer service or other non-safety recall campaign
  • International vehicles
  • Very recently announced safety recalls for which not all VINs have been identified
  • Safety recalls that are more than 15 years old (except where a manufacturer offers more coverage)
  • Safety recalls conducted by small vehicle manufacturers, including some ultra-luxury brands and specialty applications

Visit to get started.

Free Car Accident and Injury Consultation

Vehicle defects and vehicle-related recalls are not only an inconvenience and huge economic loss, they can also lead to serious accidents and injuries if gone unfixed. If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident or harmed as the result of a faulty vehicle or related products, you have rights as a consumer.

Contact Wagner Reese at (888) 204-8440 to schedule an appointment in our Indianapolis or Carmel offices, or use our convenient, confidential contact form.


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