TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Florida firefighter hopes his story will prompt a manufacturer to let people know about a problem being reported by drivers across the country.
Brad Yates is still wrapping his head around how his 2005 Cadillac XLR suddenly became roofless as he drove down Interstate-75 in Georgia.
He said the fiberglass panel on his convertible was closed and secure during a multi-hour road trip. In the final hours, he said he heard faint road noise and then a loud "bang."
"Instantly, it was like all the windows were rolled down," Yates said. "You never think that a structural component of the car is going to fly off while you’re driving down the road."
He said the rainy weather at the time likely kept other drivers from being nearby when his roof went flying. After he pulled over, he pulled out his phone and asked Google for an explanation.
"You get online and people are talking about this. I found posts from 2010," Yates said. "It’s aggravating that I had no clue this was even a potential to happen."
General Motors, the manufacturer, began looking into the complaints after a First Coast News investigation in August of a complaint nearly identical to Yates'. Francesca Giannini was driving the same 2005 Cadillac XLR in a school zone when her roof went flying into the wind. Last week, a GM spokesperson said the probe is still pending.
Both Yates and Giannini believe owners of the vehicle should be better informed of the potential hazard. No injuries were reported in either of their incidents.
"It’s not like I’m going to go search online, 'Hey, will my roof fly off?'" Yates said. "I was going 70 miles an hour, you know, there may be someone tomorrow going 70 miles an hour and really cause a bad accident."
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has recorded six other instances of the discontinued luxury vehicle losing its top. No recalls have been issued.
Attorney John Phillips in Jacksonville said often these cases come down to money.
"Unfortunately, car manufacturers...aren't motivated until there are enough injuries. There's a cost-benefit analysis equation," Phillips said. "But it's only matter of time before one of these heavy pieces of flying debris hits somebody's windshield and kills a family of four. Then what? We're too late."
Phillips said an automaker could be liable for injuries if there if a defect has been ignored.
A local Cadillac service manager told First Coast News the adhesive securing the roof erodes faster in hot and weather, causing the fly-off.
GM did recall the XLR's doppelganger -- the 2005 Corvette Z6 -- for "roof panel separation" back in 2009.
GM's spokesperson, however, said the "roofs for the Corvette and XLR use different technologies, so it is important to understand what is happening with the XLR."
The vehicle's age puts it outside of a typical warranty. Yates was quoted over $3,000 to replace the lost roof.
Yates worries as the cars age on the road, drivers won't be informed of what could happen to others sharing the road.
"I didn’t know this was an issue, if i had of known," Yates said. "The second I heard road noise, I probably would have pulled over.