NOVI, Mich. - September 23, 2012, is a day Ford IT Manager Gene Kotlinski says he’ll never forget.
Kotlinski’s 16-year-old son Adam was driving back home to Novi, Mich., in his 2011 Ford Fiesta after attending his high school Homecoming festivities when he lost control of the car.
“It was 1 a.m. and I was heading west on I-696 when I realized that I had gotten on the exit ramp to I-75 my mistake,” recalled the younger Kotlinski. “I tried to get back on I-696 but I clipped the curb and the car started to roll over. All I could think was ‘I want to stay alive. What should I do?’”
Adam says the car rolled over at least five times. After it came to a stop, he says he crawled out of the wreckage through the passenger window. The car was totaled, but Adam escaped the crash with only minor cuts and bruises.
“There was not a mark on his head from multiple rollovers – not one mark,” said the elder Kotlinski. “As far as we’re concerned, a miracle from the Lord worked through Ford Safety Engineering.”
The very next day, Kotlinski wrote a letter to Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally.
“It is through the grace of God and the safety capabilities engineered into the 2011 Ford Fiesta my son was driving that I can write this note and let you know that he walked away from a horrific crash with only scrapes and bruises,” the letter said. “All of the safety features on this vehicle worked perfectly. The seat belt held him in place, the front and side air bags protected his upper body, and the vehicle crush zones absorbed the energy from the impact protecting his lower torso and legs. You could not have asked for a better outcome with all of the safety systems working in harmony.”
Kotlinski, who recently celebrated his 40th year with Ford, says he wanted to share the story of what happened with his son with Mulally and others to remind people about the importance of wearing seatbelts, to warn people about the dangers of driver fatigue – which he believes his son was suffering from on the night of the accident – and to communicate a special message about Ford vehicles in general.
“I believe that Ford Motor Company products from a safety perspective are among the best in the world,” he said.
Kotlinski and Adam recently visited Ford’s Product Development Center in Dearborn to present the Ford Safety Engineering team with a special plaque of recognition, which says in part, “We are forever indebted to you for our son not only surviving the accident but walking away from it without injury.”
About a dozen engineers who work in various areas of Safety Engineering attended the presentation, but as Matt Niesluchowski, safety manager, Global CD and Truck Platforms, pointed out, that small group of people represented “only the tip of the iceberg.”
“Safety is probably one of the biggest team sports there is at Ford,” he said. “Everybody has a role in Safety, and we interact with every part of the car to make sure that it’s safe.”