- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

Tonya Washington is filing suit against the Ford Motor Co. and Firestone tires. Put it this way: Washington, the Washington Mystics' second-year forward, is lucky to be alive.
One night in January, Washington was driving her Ford Explorer on back roads near her home in the Florida panhandle while returning from a basketball game with her sister, her sister's boyfriend and her best friend when a deer jumped in front of the vehicle.
Washington swerved to her left and lost control of the Explorer. The SUV rolled over five times before ending up in a ditch. Washington was knocked unconscious and trapped underneath the vehicle, which came to rest on the driver's side. She suffered lacerations to her left arm, back and face that required nearly 30 stitches, plus a fractured finger.
Five months after the accident, Washington retains visible road-rash scars and scratches on her left arm from being dragged along in the ditch by the Explorer.
"I was kind of slouched over, and the truck was pinned on top my arm," Washington recalled. "I remember waking up, and all I saw was lights ambulances and people trying to get the truck off of me. Luckily, six or seven guys literally picked the truck up off of me, and when they did I was able to slide out from under."
Washington said her Explorer was equipped with Firestone tires, and she believes her right rear tire blew, causing the SUV to careen out of control. Washington said she was wearing her seat belt and was thrown partially out of the vehicle. The accident happened before Firestone issued its massive recall of 15-inch SUV tires.
"I'm in the process of suing right now," Washington said. "The right back tire came completely off the rim while it was swerving, and the right back tire popped off, which caused [the SUV] to flip. My lawyers are further investigating it."
Since that dark night, Washington, 23, has become the brightest spot on the team after the Mystics' first two games. She scored a co-team high eight points in the dreadful 69-34 opening loss in Cleveland and a career-high 12 in Sunday's 68-63 victory over the Seattle Storm.
If it wasn't for Washington's eight points in the final 8:25, the Mystics easily could have lost to the second-year Storm. Down the stretch, Washington went 3-for-3 from the field.
Washington, the Mystics' second-round draft pick (18th overall) out of Florida in last year's WNBA Draft, is making a serious case for a starting position.
"She's playing great," first-year coach Tom Maher said. "She could be really, really special. She has got to be a little more assertive all the time, and then she will be a real player."
Washington gets a chance tonight at MCI Center to help the Mystics defeat the Sacramento Monarchs for the first time. The Mystics are 0-6 all time against the Monarchs one of four teams they have never beaten, along with the Houston Comets (0-7), Portland Fire (0-1) and Phoenix Mercury (0-6).
Only one of the games against the Monarchs was close. On July 2, 1999, the Mystics lost by five points at MCI Center. The other five games were double-digit losses, including 15- and 22-point defeats last season.
Monarchs star point guard Ticha Penicheiro will not play tonight because of a sprained ankle. However, the Monarchs are strong inside with 6-foot-4 center Yolanda Griffith and 6-4 forward Tangela Smith.
"They have two great post players, and on the perimeter they are doing pretty good," Mystics forward Chamique Holdsclaw said. "The good thing is they don't have Ticha."


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