May 27, 2014 / 7:15 AM / 5 years ago

Canada probing fatal crashes amid complaints over faulty GM switches

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is probing two fatal crashes in General Motors Co vehicles which were subject to a recall to fix faulty switches and has received nine further complaints from drivers, the country’s top transportation official told Reuters on Monday.

Consulting materials engineer Mark Hood inspects a 2005 ignition switch in the mechanical testing laboratory at McSwain Engineering, Inc. in Pensacola, Florida, March 28, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Spooneybarger

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said she was sure the number of complaints potentially linking accidents to the switches would rise as people became aware of the recall.

“There were two accidents into which we are currently having investigations which may be related to this defect and this recall and I can confirm that,” she said in a telephone interview.

An official at Transport Canada - the federal transportation ministry - earlier said both accidents involved vehicles which were subject to the recall. The airbags did not deploy in either case.

Complaints about the crashes were filed in June 2013 and April of this year. Raitt said she did not know how long Transport Canada’s probes would take to wrap up.

The United States this month fined GM $35 million for not recalling cars with faulty ignition switches as quickly as possible.

At least 13 deaths in the United States have so far been linked to the problem.

Asked whether she felt fatal crashes in Canada could be linked to the faulty switches, Raitt told Reuters: “I think people are going to take a look at the accidents they had and wonder whether or not the faulty switch was at fault and I expect Transport Canada will get more phone calls.”

Raitt said Ottawa is trying to determine whether the firm had delayed the recall of some cars, breaking the law in doing so, but she added that there was no evidence that GM Canada had contravened Canadian laws.

“If information comes to light that GM Canada is not being truthful with us, we do have the ability to go back and prosecute,” she said.

Raitt said she did not know how Transport Canada would handle the nine complaints. Asked about the complaints, GM Canada said it was working closely with the ministry.

“We will continue to offer our full cooperation with the federal government as we work through these difficult issues,” said spokeswoman Adria MacKenzie.

Additional reporting by Susan Taylor in Toronto, editing by G Crosse

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