The tragic incident occurred on September 2, 2016, over the Labor Day weekend. Destiny Dixon, 28, was driving a Polaris Ranger 800 ATV from the 2010 model-year with passenger Debbie Swann, 51.
The women were navigating an obstacle called the “Tip Over Challenge” on the Hell’s Revenge 4×4 Trail in the popular Sand Flats Recreation Area just a few miles east of Moab, Utah.
Witnesses say the ATV slowly tipped over on the passenger side. The fuel neck hit the ground and the gas cap ripped off as the ATV slid backwards, causing gasoline to pour out of the fuel tank and ignite.
Bystanders tried to rescue the women, but the ATV exploded before they had time to unbuckle their seat-belts. According to the lawsuit:
Right before they could get there, it burst into flames and there was nothing they could do. Everybody who was with Debbie and Destiny had to watch them burn to death.”
Lawyers say the ATV is defective because the gas cap is unprotected and the fuel tank is located too close to riders. Unlike passenger cars, ATV fuel pumps do not automatically shut off in rollovers.
Polaris responded to the lawsuit by defending the 2010 Ranger, denying any safety defects, and noting that the rollover accident occurred on a “a highly technical and extreme riding area.”
Complaints about Polaris ATVs exploding in rollover accidents are nothing new. In the last two years, Polaris ATVs were involved in 247 fires, three deaths, and 30 burns and other injuries. At least five other lawsuits have been filed on behalf of people who were injured or died.
Polaris has recalled 338,000 vehicles due to a variety of safety defects since 2015, mostly related to fire hazards. The largest recalls involved Polaris RZR 900 and RZR 1000 ATVs that were linked to 160 fires, 19 burn injuries, and the death of a 15 year-old girl in a rollover explosion.
Polaris has also recalled Ranger ATVs from the 2015 and 2016 model-years after 7 reports of fires when they overheated under heavy engine-loading, slow-speed intermittent use, or high temperatures.
Last month, Polaris recalled all Sportsman 850 and 1000 ATVs from the 2015 and 2016 model-years because a heat shield could melt. Some of the ATVs also had a leaky exhaust seal that could cause burns or fires. There were 47 reports of fires, 4 burn injuries, and 793 incidents.