NEVADA, Fla. — For the third time in a year, investigators are conducting tests, X-raying and examining a 2019 Kia Soul that caught fire, killing 34-year-old Jordan Carlton. Car fire experts say the extent of the damage has made pinpointing the cause difficult. This time the inspection took place near Las Vegas, where the vehicle is being stored. Investigators with both Kia and others hired by the Carlton family attorney took part in the latest inspection.
Carlton was driving the rental car when it burst into flames while on a June 2019 vacation in Hawaii. Carlton’s mother Becky escaped the vehicle, but Carlton was left clinging to life with burns that scorched his entire body. He died after 14 months in the hospital.
Rick Fried, the attorney who represents Jordan’s parents Richard and Becky Carlton, provided the I-team with video of the latest inspection. The video shows an examiner hired by Fried connecting a hose to the vehicle’s high-pressure fuel injection system.
“One of my experts there brought his compressor and was able to show at very low pressure that the high-pressure line leaked,” Fried said.
The I-team asked Kia about the test and reported the leak. A spokesperson responded in an email stating: “Unfortunately, plaintiffs’ theory of a defect is in error and can neither be proven nor disproven by a leak test on the subject vehicle.”
So far, neither side has released an inspection report.
The I-team found Kia filed a service bulletin with federal regulators in 2019, alerting mechanics to take “special cautions” when servicing Kia Souls with a GDI system, the same fuel injection system in the Soul that Carlton was driving. The bulletin advises mechanics to replace certain parts and warns that failure to do so “may result in fuel leaks.”
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In December, Kia recalled 295,00 vehicles, including 2014 and 2015 Kia Souls, over possible fuel leaks that can cause the engines to catch fire. The 2019 Kia Soul that Carlton was driving has not been recalled.
Regarding a recall on 2019 Souls, Kia told the I-team, “If a defect trend is eventually identified, Kia will promptly report it to NHTSA within the five days mandated by law and will voluntarily and proactively initiate a recall to correct the defect."
Carlton’s parents want to know what caused the four-month-old vehicle to burst into flames.
“I'm hurt, I'm mad, I've got questions why!” Robert Carlton said during an exclusive interview with the I-team last year.
The family is suing both Kia and the Avis Budget Group. The rental car company said it does not comment on pending litigation.
According to the latest filings in federal court, the Carltons’ wrongful death case is set for trial in November 2021.