Answers sought after Kia Sorento catches fire on Central Florida road

'I just heard a pop and then flames started coming up from under the hood'

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

PORT ORANGE, Fla. - A Volusia county family is demanding answers and results after their 2013 Kia Sorento mysteriously burst into flames during a drive from their home.

Inside the car were a teenager and 2-month-old girl.

The fire happened Jan.31, as 18-year-old T.J. Harden was driving his 2-month-old niece, Jordyn Lauer, inside his grandmother's Kia. He and his grandmother say he was driving the Kia Sorento, which is a LX model with a four-cylinder engine, and she was driving a family member's truck along Turnbull Bay Road when it happened. The two were helping a family member move.

"I was driving down the road, my grandson was behind me," Angie Fry said. "I went around the corner, and I looked in the mirror and he wasn't there."

Fry said she turned the truck she was driving around to see where Harden could be and that is when she saw the scene. 

"In the distance, I saw a lot of cars, and people everywhere and smoke," Fry said. 

Then she saw flames consuming her 2013 Sorento.

"I just panicked and went numb," Fry said. "It just happened that quick."

This is the third case in the past nine months where a newer model Kia Sorento has caught fire in a non-collision related incident along a Central Florida roadway. 

News 6 checked and in the other two cases, the two Sorentos were on the massive recall list connected with a possible misaligned engine part that could lead to a potential fire.

But Fry says she is concerned because her car was not on the list.

"They need to do something before somebody gets killed," Fry said.

Her grandson says it was his first time driving his grandmother's Sorento, and they were only a few minutes from home when it happened.

"Basically I just heard a pop - and then flames started coming up from under the hood," Harden said. "Smoke came in, filled up the car."

Harden says he was mostly concerned about his baby cousin, Jordyn, who was strapped into a car seat in the back seat of the Sorento.

"I knew I had to get her out quick because I couldn't let her inhale all that smoke," Harden said.

Harden says he pulled over and another driver rushed to help get baby Jordan out of the car.
He was worried the car could explode at any second.

"Basically the whole car was on fire when I got out," Harden said. "That'll be the last time I drive a Kia."

When his grandmother typed in her Vehicle Identification Number to see if her car was part of any recent recalls, she says she found nothing. 

And when she checked with Kia, she was told, "According to Kia's records, there are no open safety recalls as of Feb. 1," Fry said.

This, despite report after report of similar makes and models spontaneously catching fire.

On Jan. 16, Kia announced the recall of more than 68,000 vehicles that had an engine replacement done under a previous recall.

Kia said during that recall, a fuel pipe may have been installed incorrectly, misaligned, or even damaged when those engines were replaced.

The vehicles affected in the recall are:

2011 to 2014 Kia Optima Sedans
2012 to 2014 Kia Sorento SUVs
2011 to 2013 Kia Sportage SUVs

Fry says she's surprised the Korean automaker isn't doing more to alert Kia owners, even those who don't have cars on the recall list.

"This happened to me and it’s happening to other people," Fry said. "Do you have to wait until this happens to find out that it should have been on the list? No, they need to do something. Somebody's got to do something before somebody gets killed."

Two weeks ago, a Polk County family filed a lawsuit against Kia after their 2013 Sorento burst into flames while they were driving. Their infant son was inside the car.

"Next thing I know, flames are 10 to 20 feet high in the air," Daniel Adams said.

"We've been asked, you know, 'What if you couldn't get out?'" said his wife, Christine Adams. "I said that little boy would have gotten out. I would have done whatever it took to get him out of the car."

The Adams say they had just had their Sorento's engine replaced two months before as part of a voluntary recall. In their lawsuit, they claim Kia knew about the problem for years but did not do enough to fix it.

Kia won't address the pending lawsuit, but a Kia spokesperson did send this statement regarding the fire that destroyed Fry's Sorento. 

"Customer safety is one of Kia's top priorities. In this case, the customer contacted Kia Motors America (KMA) January 31st and a vehicle inspection was completed February 12. KMA will share the results of the inspection with the customer once they are ready. KMA works directly with customers and if it is determined that a fire is the result of a manufacturing-related issue, KMA will work with customers to address any costs or expenses they may incur. Kia customers with questions regarding their Kia vehicle should contact KMA's Consumer Assistance Center directly at 1-800-333-4542 (4Kia)," national manager for product communications Kia Motors America James Hope said.

Fry says she is just counting her blessings that her grandchildren made it out of her burning car unharmed.

"Every time I think about what could have happened," Fry said, while holding back tears. "They need to look into it and take care of it. I'm not asking for anything more than what I've lost. But I am asking for them to look into this  and fix whatever is wrong." 

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