February 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

Ga. woman killed in crash where GM ignition failed

Brooke Melton's 2005 Chevy Cobalt crossed the center line and collided with another vehicle near Atlantain March 2010.on a rainy night in March 2010 near Atlanta when her car lost power and she lost control.Melton, who was wearing a seat belt, crossed the center line on the two-lane road and collided with another vehicle at 58 miles per hour. Her car went off the highway and ended up in a creek. Attorney Lance Cooper said a download from the vehicle's electronic black box showed the Cobalt's ignition switch had moved from the 'run' to 'accessory' position at the time of the crash.SONY DSC (Photo provided)

Brooke Melton was driving her 2005 Chevy Cobalt on a rainy night in March 2010 near Atlanta when her car lost power and she lost control.

Melton, who was wearing a seat belt, crossed the center line on the two-lane road and collided with another vehicle at 58 miles per hour. Her car went off the highway and ended up in a creek. Attorney Lance Cooper said a download from the vehicle’s electronic black box showed the Cobalt’s ignition switch had moved from the “run” to “accessory” position at the time of the crash.

Melton was on her way to her boyfriend’s house before they were to head out and celebrate. The pediatric nurse whose parents described her as “caring,” “sweet and good-natured,” died on her 29th birthday.

“She was the light of my life,” Ken Melton said in a phone interview from Georgia. “We were very close for a father and a daughter. We went to all the sports games together. We went to racing together.”

The 2005 Cobalt is part of a massive 1.6-million vehicle recall — including 1.37 million cars in the U.S. — that automaker General Motors Co. announced in two stages this month. The company on Tuesday issued a rare public apology for the issue after announcing it knew of 13 deaths in 31 crashes in which faulty ignition switches apparently caused air bags not to deploy in frontal crashes. That figure was up from six deaths reported on Feb. 13.

GM is not counting the Melton crash as part of the 13 deaths. All of those crashes were front-impact crashes in which air bags did not deploy. Melton’s crash impact was on the side. Her car’s front air bag did not deploy.

GM spokesman Alan Adler said GM wouldn’t comment on the Melton accident because of litigation.

The Meltons and GM settled their case in 2013, though details aren’t being released. A civil suit remains open with a Georgia Chevrolet dealer. Cooper said Melton had her car serviced just a day before her accident.

A message seeking comment was left Wednesday for dealership management.

The recall, doubled on Tuesday to add additional vehicles, now includes 2003-07 Saturn Ions, 2005-07 Chevy Cobalts, 2007 Pontiac G5s, 2006-07 Chevy HHRs, 2006-07 Pontiac Solstices and 2007 Saturn Sky vehicles. GM no longer makes any of the vehicles.

Brooke Melton’s mother, Beth, said she is grateful GM has recalled all the vehicles but thinks the corporation needs to pay the “biggest fine possible” for not acting sooner. She said the company should have stopped building the cars the minute it knew of the problem, recalled all vehicles on the road and fixed all the faulty ignition switches.

“General Motors should have taken care of this years ago,” she said.

Ken Melton said the recall will save lives and “will avoid other people having to go through what we’ve went through for the last four years.”

In the Melton case, Cooper — the Marietta, Ga., attorney representing the Melton family — found that GM’s own engineering manager experienced the key moving from the run to the accessory position and the engine stalling in a test drive in 2004. Instead of fixing the vehicles, which Cooper said would have cost less than $1 each, GM in late 2005 issued a service bulletin to dealers warning them of problems with switches and heavy key rings.

“That’s an unconscionable way to handle the problem,” Cooper said. “That meant the consumer had to have a incident before they knew about the defect.”

Ken Melton said his daughter in March 2010 told him of an incident in which her car turned off while driving, resulting in the loss of steering. She was able to get the Cobalt to the side of the road and it restarted right away. But the two agreed she should take it into the dealership the next day. A few days later she picked up her car, which the dealer said was fixed, Ken Melton said. The next day, she was in the accident.

The Meltons know they can’t have their daughter back but want to help prevent other deaths.

“Anything we can do to help we are willing to do,” Beth Melton said.

Correction The story has been corrected to say 2007 Pontiac G5 and 2007 Saturn Sky.

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