Former NBA star Rasual Butler and wife, Leah LaBelle, a former “American Idol contestant,” were killed early today in Los Angeles after their high-priced Range Rover SUV flipped over. The accident raises questions about the car’s handling and whether it contributed to the accident.
Sport Utility Vehicles, or SUVs for short, have been under a cloud in recent years because of the penchant to roll over in a crash.
“Range Rovers, like other SUVs, can easily roll over in a tight turn or while navigating unpaved roads,” according to one law firm specializing SUV crashes.
“This is due to a problem with the vehicle’s design and possible safety defects,” it adds.
Potential design problems that could contribute to a Range Rovers rollover include a high center of gravity and a relatively narrow wheel-base compared to its high profile.
Electronic stability control errors, tire defects and driver error can also contribute to rollover crashes, according to the firm.
The risk of SUV rollovers is now statistically lower because of the widespread introduction of electronic stability control systems (ESCS), which reduce rollover rates, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
All Range Rovers have ESCSs, and the smaller Land Rover model is considered among the top 15 safest SUVs, according to the Institute.
In 2009, a Los Angeles judge ordered automaker Jaguar, which makes the Land Rover models, to pay $21.1 million to a Simi Valley man.
He was paralyzed in 2003 when his Land Rover Discovery sport utility vehicle rolled over several times after a collision, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The vehicle’s high center of gravity made it susceptible to rolling over, and its roof collapsed too easily, the judge concluded.
Because of its high price, Range Rovers are rarely tested for crash worthiness by consumer groups.
Butler, 38, crashed his Range Rover near Studio City in Los Angeles around 2 am local time, according to gossip site TMZ.
The vehicle reportedly hit a parking meter before slamming into a wall and flipping over. Police believe he was speeding at least twice the 35 mph speed limit.
Butler was trying to negotiate a turn when the crash occurred.
There is no information yet on whether Butler or his LaBelle were wearing seatbelts.
Butler played 13 seasons in the NBA for eight different teams. LaBelle, 31, was a contestant during the 2004 season of “American Idol.”
The Canadian-born R&B singer signed a production deal in 2011 with LA Reid, Jermaine Dupri and Pharrell Williams. But her only release was a five-song EP.
Rasual is survived by his daughter Raven from a previous relationship.
A Philadelphia native, Butler was drafted in the second round of the 2002 NBA Draft. He averaged 7.5 points and 2.4 rebounds over 809 games between the 2002-03 season and 2015-16.
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