Officer dies as SUV flips over on expressway
By John Ellement, Globe Staff
April 8, 2005 - George J. Rull survived the Gulf War and the dangers of chasing criminals as a Boston police officer, but yesterday morning he lost his life when his sport utility vehicle flipped over on the Southeast Expressway.
Hours later, Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole huddled with Rull's mother, grieving for the 32-year-old off-duty officer, and for the little boy she once baby-sat and taught to ride a bike.
O'Toole was the next-door neighbor of Claire Lyons on East Sixth Street in South Boston when she was a divorced mother raising Rull and his brother. ''As far as I'm concerned, he's just little 'G.G.,' " O'Toole said yesterday after leaving Lyons and mourning relatives.
''He had so much heart, even then," O'Toole said of her former cycling trainee. ''He had so much spunk; he would fall again and again, then just brush himself off and get back on the bike again," O'Toole said.
At 3:35 a.m. yesterday, Rull was heading south on Interstate 93 in Quincy when he lost control of his 2001 Ford Explorer, and it rolled over. Rull, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
State Police said they have not determined what caused the crash.
''There was nothing at the scene to indicate that alcohol was a factor," said State Police Sergeant Scott Range. ''However, we never rule out anything until we have completed our investigation. We will conduct a thorough and complete investigation into this matter, as we do in all cases."
The investigation will include a mechanical exam of the vehicle, State Police said. Studies by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration have found that 2001 Explorers have a 30 to 40 percent chance of rolling over during a single-vehicle crash.
Yesterday, two of Rull's maternal uncles stood outside the Lyons home on P Street in South Boston, remembering their nephew. ''He was a well-liked young man who was certainly loved by his family," said Thomas J. Lyons. ''When he was around people, he made them feel not only important, but like they were friends."
Rull's father was Boston Firefighter George V. Rull, who retired March 31, and his grandfather is a retired Boston deputy fire chief, also named George. Neither his father nor grandfather could be reached yesterday.
Rull graduated from The Newman School and enlisted in the US Air Force, hoping that military security experience would enhance his résumé and improve his civil service rating with a veterans' preference, said Thomas Lyons, his uncle. Rull was in a military security unit during the first Gulf War and served in Kuwait, Lyons said. Boston police said Rull was decorated by the Air Force and the department.
Lyons said Rull was able to follow his family's tradition of public service when he became a Boston police officer in March 2001. ''It was something he wanted to do," he said.
In February, Rull was among the officers who helped capture a shooting suspect in the South End with Detective Gerard McHale, who has since retired. On March 13, Rull suffered a back injury when he tried to arrest a violent suspect in his South End district. Rull had been on injury leave since then, said Captain Robert M. Flaherty, who was Rull's commander.
Hours before the crash, Rull was given medical approval to return to work and would have been back on the job tomorrow, Flaherty said.
''This kid was a very positive, upbeat type of guy," Flaherty said. ''He just had a positive affect on everybody. . . . He was a very professional police officer, but at the same time, a very pleasant person to be around."
An ardent Red Sox fan, Rull talked earlier this week about looking forward to the home opener Monday, when Rull planned to work a detail at Fenway Park and perhaps catch a glimpse of the Red Sox being formally presented with their World Series championship rings.
Lyons said Rull frequently worked security details at the park and teased his uncle that he was going to be there in person while his uncle was not.
Lyons said his nephew was not involved in a serious romantic relationship. ''He was a single guy, enjoying life," he said.
Judy Rakowsky of the Globe staff contributed to this report. John Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Safety: Teachers call for SUV safety warnings
SUVs: Just Say No?
12 April 2006 - Teachers have joined the anti-SUV protests, calling for car manufacturers to issue 'health warnings' with sales of large four-wheel drive models and for the government to research the effects of collision with 4x4s and SUVs.
Delegates from the Association of Lecturers and Teachers (ASL) discussed the issue at their annual conference. A spokesman said that pedestrians are two to four times more likely to die or suffer serious injury in an accident involving SUVs than with any other passenger car and that children were even more at risk.
He told The Times: 'It doesn't take a detailed knowledge of human anatomy to realise that many younger children will find all of their torso, including their heads and vital organs, hitting the fronts of these vehicles as their point of first impact.'
The Times also reports that a school in Winchester has asked all parents driving SUVs to reverse into the school's car park - while the children are still inside the building - so that when the vehicles come to leave, they will set off forwards and the risk of a driver running over or knocking down a child is lessened.
Toyota FJ Cruiser and Hyundai Santa Fe receive top crash-test rating
2006/08/01 - The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced that it has awarded the top "Good" rating for frontal crash protection to the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser and 2007 Hyundai Santa Fe.
The all-new FJ Cruiser, derived from the Toyota 4Runner, reportedly had "well-controlled" crash test dummy movement; the IIHS says that "during rebound, the dummy's head hit the B-pillar and roof rail", but "measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity; head acceleration from the B-pillar/roof rail contact was low." The tested vehicle had optional front and rear head curtain airbags with front seat-mounted torso airbags.
The Hyundai Santa Fe was redesigned for 2007, and due to its increased size and weight, it is now classified as a midsize SUV, instead of the previous small SUV designation. The IIHS reports that "dummy movement was well controlled; after the dummy moved forward into the airbag, it rebounded into the seat without its head coming close to any stiff structure that could cause injury. Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity." The vehicle was tested with head curtain airbags for all three rows of seats and front seat-mounted torso airbags, which are standard equipment.