US parents demand truth over suspicious deaths in General Motors cars
Standing on the lawn of the US Capitol in the path of an early spring breeze, Renee Trautwein tearfully braced herself to relive the worst morning of her life.
In a few hours, Mary Barra, the chief executive officer of General Motors, would be pressed to answer why the largest US carmaker did not act sooner to fix an ignition switch defect that can suddenly leave certain models of its cars without power.
Trautwein's daughter died in one of those cars, a 2005 Chevy Cobalt, in South Carolina on the morning of June 12, 2009 - an accident Trautwein had previously thought was caused by her daughter falling asleep at the wheel.
Since the recall of the vehicle earlier this year, Trautwein now believes the car lost power and was unable to be steered.
"The first question a parent asks when they lose a child is, 'Did they suffer?' And now I have to relive this and I have to know about her final seconds on this earth and the panic that she felt. And that's very painful," Trautwein said on Tuesday morning as she left a press conference held by car safety groups, members of Congress and families of victims ahead of the hearing.
More than 20 other parents who lost children in the recalled cars travelled to Washington this week to attend the congressional committee hearings investigating whether GM knowingly delayed a recall.
The group met with Barra on Monday night at GM's Washington offices and took turns telling her how each of their children were lost. Every parent was in tears and Barra dabbed her eyes with a tissue, said Laura Christian, who lost her daughter Amber Rose in a 2005 Chevy Cobalt crash in Maryland in 2005.
Cherie Sharkey of New York lost her son Michael when his 2006 Chevy Cobalt crashed and burst into flames. At the press conference, she held a picture taken just before the 2012 accident of the two of them dancing and smiling.
"She said sorry, but it wasn't enough," Sharkey said of her meeting with the CEO.