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2 News Investigation: Family still demanding answers from automaker after son dies in car fire

Hyundai, Kia recall vehicles for leaks that can cause fires
Posted at 9:03 AM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 23:27:13-04

CALVIN, Okla. — A Green Country family overcome by grief wants to make sure their loved one did not die in vain.

The tragedy that took their son's life is one they say they fear could happen again to someone else. Now, the Carlton family is calling for more action from automaker Kia Motors America.

This, after reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, show thousands of car fires and millions of recalls nationwide.

"Please, please do something,” Robert Carlton said.

Carlton raised his two sons in Calvin, Okla. Across the way on Canadian street, you'll find Home Propane Incorporated. For Robert and his family, this is home.

“It’s been in our family since, my wife's family, since 1954,” he said.

A lot of heart lives in the walls of the business. Generations of family, building it from the ground up.

"Our sons Brandon and Jordan, they grew up here,” he said. “Everywhere you look you can see their footprints somewhere playing and growing up."

The floorboards creak, mimicking the sounds of sweet memories, though grief still finds its way through the cracks, making this happy home sometimes a painful memory.

“My wife has yet to come back, and she was here daily."

Jordan Carlton, Robert’s son, has a footprint embedded in the town of Calvin. You’ll find his brushstrokes on the side of buildings, the pew he sat in at church, and his grave down a winding road on the edge of town.

“Everything is difficult,” Carlton said. “We struggle with his death daily."

Jordan’s life took a tragic turn while on vacation in Hawaii in June of 2019. While driving with his mother Becky, their rented 2019 Kia Soul burst into flames.

“Jordan was severely burned,” he said. “Ninety percent of his body was burned with third- and fourth-degree burns."

Jordan’s mother, Becky was also injured but able to escape the fire. Jordan was immediately taken to the hospital and given less than a one percent chance to live.

His father said he fought for 14 months before succumbing to his injuries. His parents stayed by his side every step of the way and said they live the nightmare daily.

"Becky hears Jordan’s scream. ‘I’m on fire mom, I’m on fire,’ and she is screaming, ‘Stop the car,’ and Jordan’s saying the ‘brakes don’t work.’”

This a story 2 News Investigators first brought you back in August of 2020, when the Carlton family was demanding Kia Motors address the problem and prevent other families from suffering an unbearable loss.

“Please, please, please, fix these cars where they are not having these kinds of issues,” Robert Carlton said.

In 2017, stations across the country reported the death of an Ohio man after his 2014 Kia Soul caught fire while it was in park. It’s not just Kia Souls. Since 2018 thousands of Kia fires have led to millions of recalls according to claims sent to the NHTSA.

The latest is Kia’s recall of 126,000 Sportage SUVs. The company warning owners to park their vehicles outside stating they can ignite even when turned off.

This same warning was issued last year as well when nearly 380,000 Kia model 2017-2021 Sportage and Cadenza vehicles were recalled.

Although hundreds of thousands of recalls have been issued, the model Kia Soul, in which Jordan was driving, is still not one of them.

2 News went to Kia Motors to ask why and received this statement:

"Each recall is determined based upon the individual facts of each situation to identify the root cause and the associated appropriate action to address that root cause. In the Carlton matter, the cause of the fire has still not been determined, and we believe that plaintiff's defect allegations are not factually supported.”

The company goes on to say the cause of the fire that killed Jordan is still undetermined.

The family filed a lawsuit against Kia and the car rental company for failing to warn consumers about the potential car fires. The Carlton’s said they can’t comment on the litigation or where it stands, only saying it was postponed because of the pandemic.

“Our goal is to be sure that other people, other moms, other families, other dads, don’t have to and won’t go through this same situation again unless something is changed,” Carlton said.

The family said until Kia Motors can prove its vehicles are safe and pose no fire risk, they want consumers to beware.

Kia responded by stating in part:

"Kia continuously evaluates its vehicles as part of ongoing monitoring activities conducted as a standard practice on all Kia models and federal law obligates Kia to promptly report discovered or determined safety related defects to NHSTA within five days. When a defect trend is detected, Kia initiates a recall of all impacted models.”

In the meantime, the Carltons said their son's death will not be in vain, and they plan to speak out until there's proof these vehicles will not harm another family.

Currently, under the most recent recall, the NHTSA has issued a series of investigations into engine compartment fires that have been causing issues for the Korean automaker for years.

Kia's latest recall can be found on NHTSA's website.

See the full story TONIGHT on 2 News at 10 p.m.

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