DELTONA, Fla. – A Central Florida family wants answers after their mother's Kia Sportage exploded while parked in her carport last month.
On Monday, fire investigators from both Kia Motors and the homeowner’s insurance company were at the Deltona home where it happened, to take a closer look at the car and the fire trail.
“It’s devastating,” Gina Tyckoson said. “The fire investigation needs to finish so we know what caused the fire. It's been almost a month at this point.”
Tyckoson said she wants the facts, and so does her mother, Betty Davis, who is back in the hospital after having a seizure this weekend from complications related to the fire.
“She was fine before the fire,” said Tyckoson. “If Kia is responsible, they need to make it right with my mom.”
Independent fire investigator Richard Meier was also there.
News 6 put him in touch with Tyckoson after she wanted another experienced set of eyes to examine the damage.
Meier runs Meier Fire Investigation and said he spent years in the auto industry, and has nearly a decade of experience pinpointing the cause of fires.
Meier said based on his analysis, witness observations and the fire patterns on the car and house, he believes the fire started in the engine compartment of Davis’ 2009 Kia Sportage.
“Because the car had been parked for 30 hours prior to the fire, by process of elimination, it pretty much only leaves an electrical issue with the car,” Meier said.
Meier says he has investigated a number of other Kia car fires in Florida.
He said even though we are hearing a lot about Kia recalls and cars catching fire, it is still a small percentage out of all the vehicles on the road.
“In some cases it is involving a fuel line that's related to an engine recall,” Meier said. “In the case of the non-moving vehicles, in some cases it appears to be related to a cooling fan and the fan resistor which has been a problem in the past. Kia has had some recalls on this issue. And in some cases, it can be electrical wiring.”
It could be months before the actual cause of the fire is released.
The car still has to be sent to a lab for a full independent inspection.
And the state’s fire investigation is still open.
“Investigators have not uncovered any indications of suspicious activity surrounding the incident, and the fire is believed to be accidental in nature at this time,” said Leighton Tomkins III, with the Division of Investigative and Forensic Services for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer.
Tyckoson said she is just glad she had one more set of eyes at the inspection to determine the results.
“It’s been so comforting to know that Channel 6 was on my side,” Tyckoson said.
She said what happened to her mom should serve as a warning to other Kia owners to check their cars.
“Was it the Kia? If it was the Kia, was it because of some part?,” asked Tyckoson. “Was it because of something that should have been replaced that wasn't? That should have been recalled that wasn't? What is the issue? Because nobody should have to go through this.”
Tyckoson said her mother's car had regular oil changes and did have a part replaced in December when the car had problems accelerating. That same month, the car’s check engine light turned on.
“And they did say it needed a part that cost like $2,000 and she didn't have that,” Tyckoson. “They said it should be safe enough to just drive it.”
Tyckoson said she checked her mom’s vehicle identification number and the 2009 Kia Sportage was not on any recall list.
“How do you know what to take care of if you're not notified in any way?” Tyckoson said.
News 6 reached out to Kia Motors after their investigator declined our request for an interview. We are still waiting to hear from them.
If you have questions, Meier recommends taking your car to a licensed mechanic to get it checked out -- and don't park in the garage or near any other cars or structures, just in case.
“I’d say be wary, be cautious (and) don’t panic,” said Meier.