Family of woman killed in fiery Gwinnett County wreck exploring legal avenues

The family of a woman killed in a van that wreck on its way to an addiction recovery graduation is apparently exploring legal options, which include potentially suing the maker of the van. 

Kristie Whitfield, 44 from Mount Airey, was one of six people killed on Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County last month when a 2003 Dodge Ram van flipped and burst into flames

The occupants of the van were part of an addiction recovery group, We Are Living Proof, Inc. Some people had just completed the recovery program and were expected to graduate, but never arrived at their destination. 

Attorney Mike Morgan said the Whitfield family retained him. Morgan said there are known design problems in that model of Dodge van that could have played a part in the accident. 

SEE MORE: 'She never met a stranger': Van crash victim remembered for giving spirit

"We are investigating every factor that could have contributed to this horrific incident, including a potential link to well-documented design flaws in the Dodge van, to be able to win justice for Ms. Whitfield’s family," said Morgan. "Our client’s mother was about to open a new chapter of growth and redemption in her life before that was tragically stolen from her through no fault of her own. We are committed to holding those responsible for this tragic death accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Whitfield's family spoke to FOX 5 Atlanta's Janice Yu after her death. She was a mother and grandmother. The family said she was looking forward to a new chapter in her life and was proud of how far she'd come.

"She was the best we'd seen her in such a long time. She was happy, so proud of herself. She was like, so my family can be proud of me, and man, we're extremely proud of her," said April Beamon, Whitfield's sister.

I-85 wreck in Gwinnett County killed six

Gwinnett County police said there were a total of 16 occupants in the van. 

Whitefield died along with 34-year-old Columbus resident Alishia Carroll, 26-year-old Kennesaw resident Ashleigh Paris, 53-year-old Atlantan Tina Rice, 38-year-old Norcross resident Normisha Monroe and 34-year-old Ellabell resident Rose Patrick. 

Police said in the days after the wreck investigators were exploring the possibility the accident involved just one vehicle or an additional car that may have caused the van to flip, even without physical contact. Police said witness statements indicated another vehicle may have been directly or indirectly involved in this incident.

An accident report states the van was approaching the I-985 split, traveling north, when an unknown vehicle unexpectedly changed lanes in front of it. The van lost control and rolled onto its side before sliding across two lanes on I-985 and striking the guard rail, police said. 

Police said bystanders attempted to pull victims from the burning vehicle.

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