WASHINGTON (Sept. 11)—Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and Ford Motor Co. knew of 130 accidents and 35 deaths involving Firestone tires before the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched its investigation in May 2000, an online safety advocacy group is claiming. Safetyforum.com analyzed information from 185 lawsuits and claims against Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone between 1991 and May 2000 to reach that number, according to Tab Turner, legal adviser to the Web site and a Little Rock, Ark., plaintiffs´ attorney. "The deaths and injuries chronicled in these lawsuits are mute testimony to the tragedy that has gone unchecked because of Ford´s and Firestone´s silence," Turner said in a news release. Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone officials could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile, various news sources reported that a Bridgestone/Firestone document given to the House Commerce Committee showed a sixfold increase in the number of claims against the Firestone ATX II tire—to 279 from 42—between 1995 and 1997.