WASHINGTON (Sept. 6)—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. did not know of any defect involving its 15-inch original equipment tires on the Ford Explorer until this year, said Gary Crigger, Bridgestone/Firestone executive vice president, business planning, at a Senate hearing on the Firestone tire recall. "In hindsight, I wish we did have evidence," Crigger told a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee this morning, "but the field and adjustment data Bridgestone/Firestone had did not indicate a defect," he said. Crigger also defended the company´s use of gag orders in lawsuit settlements involving the tires, saying they covered only trade secrets and proprietary information. Earlier Bridgestone/Firestone CEO Masatoshi Ono said in a prepared statement that he had "come to accept full and personal responsibility on behalf of Bridgestone/Firestone for the events that led to this hearing." Also during the hearing, Helen Petrauskas, Ford vice president of environmental and safety engineering, shied away from testimony in her written statement that Bridgestone/Firestone was to blame. She said subcommittee chairman Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., had "chastised" her not to blame the tire company. But Petrauskas did cite Ford data that the non-recalled Firestone tires and Goodyear tires used as OE on the Explorer had much lower failure rates than the recalled Firestone tires. Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook—onetime head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—also weighed in at the hearing. Claybrook called for several measures to prevent such recalls in the future, such as updating the current federal tire safety standards, extending the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System to include truck tires as well as passenger tires and setting stiffer penalties for withholding documents related to an investigation. The hearing resumed this afternoon.