the fight of Sophie Rollet, this widow who made the American tire giant falter

the fight of Sophie Rollet, this widow who made the American tire giant falter
the fight of Sophie Rollet, this widow who made the American tire giant falter

Thursday May 16, the Besançon public prosecutor’s office formalized the holding of an investigation against the American tire manufacturer Goodyear, after several fatal heavy goods vehicle accidents caused by defective tires. At the origin of these investigations, the self-sacrifice of a woman, Sophie Rollet. After losing her husband, the Doubiste transformed herself into a whistleblower for 10 years. Interview.

I finally pass the baton to justice“. The news is for her the end of a long tunnel of 10 years. 10 years of struggle, 10 years of combat, of scrupulous investigation where she, Sophie Rollet, faced the tire giant, the American company Goodyear.

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Sophie Rollet, whose husband died in an accident, led a long fight against the tire manufacturer Goodyear.

© France 3 Franche-Comté

Thursday May 16, 2024, the Besançon public prosecutor’s office drew up the outlines of an investigation targeting the tire giant, after initial searches two days earlier on three company sites in France, in Brussels (Belgium), and in Luxembourg. Legal action carried out after multiple fatal accidents involving heavy goods vehicles following blowouts of the brand’s tires. A link demonstrated in large part by the tireless work of Sophie Rollet, directly impacted by this subject.

Let’s go back. On July 25, 2014, Sophie’s husband, Jean-Paul, a professional driver, died in a road accident involving three heavy goods vehicles on the A36, near Geney (Doubs). At 40, Sophie Rollet became a widow. His three children, fatherless. Very quickly, the Doubiste then seeks to understand what could have caused the death of her husband.

Reading international press articles, interviews with the families of various victims… Sophie quickly notes a disturbing link between several accidents: all the impacted vehicles were equipped with Goodyear tires. “As early as 2014, many clues pointed to a tire defect. Lots of little details that didn’t take on the dimension they should have taken” testifies the main interested party to the microphone of our journalists Stéphanie Bourgeot and Florence Petit.

► ALSO READ: Goodyear affair: 7 deaths on the roads, the list of accidents which cause trouble for the reliability of tires

So Sophie fought to be heard. A fight of David against Goliath then begins. Having become a whistleblower, she embarks on a quest for justice and truth. A first complaint was filed in 2015, closed without further action. But the forty-year-old at the time did not give up, and managed to obtain internal documents highlighting Goodyear, which in 2019 provoked an expertise which incriminated defective tires. But the American giant rejects all responsibility.

I experienced all this problem, which no one wanted to face. I knew that behind these accidents, there was something huge. That tragedies were going to happen again. But no one did anything, senior officials looked the other way for a long time. It was super complicated to live with.

Sophie Rollet continues hearings with the courts, and continues to provide new elements. A work which has finally borne fruit with this investigation to seek responsibility. When we questioned her, the day after the searches were announced, it was a mix of emotions that went through the widow, now 50 years old.

The wait has been very long until these advances. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks” she confides. “We hear a lot of rumors about how things are progressing. These searches have been constantly postponed and emotionally speaking, it is very complicated to manage this, to have a deadline that is constantly changing“.

Clear words, which recount the suffering of a woman who, in her own words, “had tried everything“.”I felt like I had done everything in my power, that I had explored every avenue necessary to make things happen.” she continues. “How many times have I been told that the outcome is imminent? But imminence, for justice and for me, is not the same thing“.

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Sophie Rollet facing the press at the Besançon courthouse.

© Emilien Diaz – France Télévisions

So when she heard the news of his searches, while checking her cell phone full of messages after mowing her lawn, a thought crossed her mind: “that’s it, it’s over for me“.Why this feeling?”For 10 years, it was the emotional elevator, between hope and despair” she blurted. “I had to work specifically on this so that it didn’t impact me too much. But I couldn’t do it. A struggle like this is visceral. So I made a decision“.

This year I turned 50. July 25, 2024 will mark 10 years since this incident. I had decided, if nothing had been done by that date, to stop my efforts and leave all this behind me.

With this legal twist, when the investigations are really starting, will she reconsider her decision? “From my point of view, things are ending” she confesses. “Normally, the work of investigation and collection of elements that I handed over to justice stops. They have taken stock of the matter now. But if certain files that I was monitoring evolve, with new elements, I will share them with the authorities“.

The time has now come to take stock of these years spent in the fight. “I regularly asked myself a question: but am I crazy?” she adds. “In any case, that’s what I was told for years. I was a victim, a widow, I was not heard“.

Sophie Rollet’s wish now is to see Goodyear condemned. But the road to this conclusion is still long and uncertain. “I avoid planning for the future” she concedes. “I am satisfied with what is happening currently, but at the same time, with what we saw for the Mediator trial, I am rather pessimistic“.

Today, most criminal accidents linked to Goodyear are time-barred, so many cases will not be brought forward. And then others were subject to confidentiality agreements, I learned that during my collections. And then some relatives do not want to exhume the dead and want to move on.

Is there not even a feeling of accomplishment? “There is a lot of bitterness and a feeling of waste in view of the time lost. But the injustice is on the way to being repaired” concludes Sophie Rollet. “I also think of Jean-Paul. After 10 years, I had time to grieve. But besides him, there are also all the other victims concerned. We are dealing with a collective problem“. As a reminder, the investigation is continuing and there is currently no concrete evidence to hold the manufacturer Goodyear responsible for these road accidents.

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