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Man still struggling to survive one year after the Kia he rented burst into flames


By Jenn Boneza

Posted June 30, 2020 at 05:22 PM HST
Updated June 30, 2020 at 06:20 PM HST

HONOLULU(KHON2) — The victim in a spontaneous car fire continues to fight for his life a year after the accident.

On June 30, 2019, 33-year-old Jordan Carlton’s life changed forever. He and his mother Becky were visiting Hawaii from Oklahoma. They rented a 2019 Kia Soul and were driving on the H3 freeway when the car burst into flames with both of them inside of it.

Passersby captured unbelievable footage of the raging car fire.

Carlton was driving, his mother was in the passenger seat. She managed to get out. Carlton was trapped inside the inferno.

He suffered third degree burns to 90 percent of his body according to his attorney Rick Fried.

All of his fingers had to be amputated, along with all but one toe. He was given a one percent chance of survival.

After 365 days, Carlton still has a long road to recovery.

“There’s tubes in every part of his body. This young man is an incredible fighter…He’s on and off a trach collar, a ventilator. He’s on dialysis. He has tubes for his feeding — he hasn’t even eaten a piece of regular food in a full year now. It’s just astounding,” said Fried.

Fried explained that Carlton can speak in short sentences though it is difficult for him. He needs daily skin grafts and remains on medication to manage his pain.

“In spite of all this, he is slightly, ever slowly, making incremental progress. (Doctors) are hopeful one day — it will be months yet— he will be able to go home. And of course once he goes home, he will need 24-hour care and unfortunately his very bright future will never be even remotely the same.”

Then there are the mounting medical expenses. After a year of round the clock medical care, Carlton’s bills now exceed $13 million.

“That you, as a consumer, use a product in the way it’s intended to be used and it doesn’t operate that way. When you rent a brand new Kia Soul from Budget, and it had never even come up for time for its first service, and you’re driving under the speed limit, in the slow lane, you do not expect that car to spontaneously catch on fire. That certainly meets our consumer expectation,” Fried explained.

The court date is set for February 8, 2021.

Kia has recalled more than 300,000 Kia Soul models built in 2012 through 2016. The car manufacturer hasn’t recalled any 2019 models—the model Carlton was driving.

Fried said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing 3,000 Kia and Hyundai vehicle fires not caused by crashes.

“Anyone that has a Kia really needs to get it checked out. It’s terrifying and it goes up so fast, less than a minute.”

KHON2 reached out to KIA Motors and is waiting for a response.