DENVER (CBS4) – Faulty General Motors ignition switches are blamed for 13 deaths and have prompted a massive recall, but a Denver engineer told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger she knew about the problem two years ago.

Problems with ignition switches in GM cars caused airbags to fail when they were needed most. Robson Forensic engineer Erin Shipp discovered the link while working for a crash victim.

“I thought this was such an easy thing to find. I couldn’t believe I was the first one outside to put it together,” Shipp said.

Her 2012 discovery was noted in the internal report released by General Motors.

“Hey, if the ignition is in accessories, you have no airbags,” she said. “The airbag system goes off.”

What she found was a previous Chevrolet Cobalt crash in which the key had moved into the accessory position, and because of that the airbag didn’t deploy.

GM settled the lawsuit she was working on for a victim, so the information did not become public. There wasn’t a recall for nearly two more years.

“The lives should have been saved. There’s no reason for this,” Shipp said.

On Thursday GM CEO Mary Barra announced the firing of 15 people.

“Some were removed because of what we consider misconduct or incompetence,” Barra said. “Others have been relieved because they simply didn’t do enough.”

Shipp wonders what took so long for the company to act on her information.

“I knew that it wasn’t going to happen overnight at General Motors, but it did take an awful lot longer than I expected,” she said.

It turns out the problem was an ignition system that didn’t meet specifications.

Shipp warns that those in cars that have been recalled but not yet serviced to keep their extra keys off the key ring, otherwise their airbags could fail at the very time they need them most.

RELATED: More Coverage On GM Recall From CBS News


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