BLAINE (AP) -- A 1994 Chevrolet Astro van that burst into flames, killing three children, was not part of a General Motors recall for fuel system problems, a GM official said.
The company is confident the van was not linked to a fuel systems recall affecting more than 3,000 Astros made in September 1994 for the 1995 model year, said Jim Schell, product safety communications manager for GM.
A GM report on the vehicle involved in the fire shows the van did have warranty work done in 1995 and 1996, but none of those repairs was associated with the fuel lines.
"The design of the fuel system in both the 1994 and 1995 Astro vans is safe and meets all applicable GM and federal safety standards," Schell said Thursday.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some Astro vans manufactured in 1994 were recalled because the fuel lines attached to the fuel tank were not properly tightened. These fuel lines can come loose, allowing fuel to leak and risking a vehicle fire.
But an auto safety specialist said it's impossible to know whether the van involved in the fire should have been included in the recall.
"The cutoff dates for recalls are not real sharp and though the manufacturer tries to pinpoint the dates, sometimes they get all the vehicles and sometimes they don't," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington.
The fire killed Madison Jean Thurner, 4, Parker Nelson Thurner, 19 months, and a third child whose name was still being withheld. A fourth child, whose name was not released, was injured. The driver, who also was injured, was Heidi Marie Nelson, 37, Blaine.
Nelson told police the van caught fire Tuesday afternoon after she experienced mechanical problems while running errands. She pulled over a mile from her home-based day care center and saw flames and sparks underneath.
Nelson was able to pull one child to safety after the fire erupted. But she and several people who rushed in to help were driven back by flames and unable to rescue the other three youngsters.
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