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A man is still fighting for his life almost five months after his rental car burst into flames

By Jenn Boneza

Posted November 22, 2019

HONOLULU (KHON2) – The man trapped inside his rental car after it caught on fire continues to fight for his life almost five months after the accident.

Jordan Carlton was pinned behind the wheel of the Kia Soul he was driving and suffered burns over most of his body. His life will never be the same. Doctors even had to amputate all of his fingers and all but one toe. He is sedated and lives in constant pain.

Photos of Jordan Carlton before June 30, 2019 show a happy, healthy, 33-year-old, enjoying life with his family.

In a photo taken after the accident, Jordan is severely burned, almost unrecognizable.

KHON met with Jordan’s attorney Rick Fried to find out how his recovery is going.

KHON: “Will he ever have a normal life?”

“I think that’s pretty clear that he won’t,” Fried said.

“He’s alive, but he can’t eat. He can’t sit up, he can do nothing but lie there…He has a trach in place. He has lost all his toes and fingers except the big toe on one foot.”

Jordan was moved from the Straub ICU to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas two months ago so that he could be closer to his family and closer to the facility in Boston that provides the skin used to cover his burned body.

He endures skin graph procedures daily, which are painful, but are a part of his recovery.

“Sixty to 70 percent of his body has (skin) graphs and they’re holding and that’s great because the more coverage the less chance of infection,” Fried explained.

Fried said Jordan also needs surgery on his eyes because he can’t close them.

Hospital staff have to put drops and salve in his eyes hourly to prevent them from drying up-or he could go blind.

Fried said it’s a miracle Jordan is still alive.

Footage taken by other drivers on June 30th captured the car Jordan was driving completely ablaze with him still inside.

Jordan and mother Becky were visiting from Oklahoma. They rented a 2019 Kia Soul the day before. It had only four thousand miles on it.

Jordan was driving along the H3 headed to the beach when the car burst into flames.

“He lost the brakes, his mother jumped out at about 40 miles per hour. To stop the car he drove into the center median in the middle of the highway,” Fried said.

Becky escaped but Jordan wasn’t so lucky.

“He had burns over 90 percent of his body, 70 percent were third degree burns. They gave him a one percent chance of living when I saw him in early July.”

It’s not the first time a Kia caught on fire like this.

“It’s happened, according to the center for auto safety, several thousand times in the Kia Soul…there appears to be a problem with the fuel injection system being too close to the engine- it catches on fire and it goes up really fast,” Fried explained.

In March, Kia recalled 380 thousand 2012 to 2016 Kia Souls due to risk of engine fires. So far Kia has not recalled any 2019 Kia Souls.

“They have not stepped up to the plate. They should voluntarily recall these not wait for NHTSA to demand it,” Fried said.

In a statement, a spokesperson from Kia said:

“Kia Motors America (KMA) recognizes that the Carltons, as well as the general public, deserve an understanding of the cause of this incident and, in turn, the ongoing safety of our vehicles. We also recognize that the injuries suffered by the Carltons, particularly Jordan Carlton, are serious and significant.

While KMA will typically not comment about ongoing litigation with respect to questions about a lawsuit, we would like to transparently share the investigative steps taken to identify, the underlying cause of this fire.

KMA became aware of this incident on 7/8/19 and immediately notified NHTSA for coordination of a joint inspection with the vehicle’s owner, Avis Budget, and the attorney for the family.

Because all automobiles contain combustible materials and a fire may be the result of any number of complex factors, such as a manufacturing issue, inadequate maintenance, installation of aftermarket parts, an improper repair, arson, or some other non-vehicle source, each incident must be carefully evaluated by qualified and trained investigators and/or technicians.

Therefore, KMA enlisted internal staff from the U.S. and Korea and two independent U.S. fire experts to join NHTSA engineers plus lawyers and experts for the injured party, amongst others, for the inspection on 7/23/19.

The inspection was productive but, as is often the case with a vehicle fire, an initial conclusion was not able to be drawn due to significant vehicle damage.

As a result, a second and more comprehensive inspection was conducted in early November and we continue to review those results with all interested parties but, at this time, we are unable to identify the cause of the fire.

Should any defect be confirmed during the course of this entire investigation, KMA will immediately notify NHTSA and commence a recall.

Owners are encouraged to contact Kia Consumer Affairs at 800-333-4542 with any questions or concerns related to this matter. “

Fried said the lawsuit against Kia is expected to go to trial next year.