Araceli Hampton didn’t immediately realize her Kia Soul had started to catch fire. She says a complete stranger helped get her out in time.
CAMERON, Texas — Araceli Hampton bought her 2018 Kia Soul just over a year ago from Hertz. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she still hadn’t put too many miles on the vehicle.
After Wednesday, however, she won’t be putting on any more. That’s when, Hampton said, the car burst into flames.
Hampton told 6 News she heard a knocking in the engine last Monday along with a tapping sound in engine. She took the vehicle to Rockdale Speedy Lube hoping it just needed an oil change. The general manager changed her oil, but told her from the beginning she needed to take it to a mechanic.
“The mechanic said you need to take this in as soon as possible, which I was going to get it to the mechanic this Saturday,” Hampton said.
On the Speedy Lube invoice the shop wrote, “motor made loud knocking prior to service.”
Hampton said the vehicle didn’t make it nine more miles before the knocking got even worse. She then heard a noise that sounded like metal grinding against metal. She said she couldn’t stop the vehicle, so she cruised onto the side of the road.
Little did Hampton know, the vehicle was already on fire. She said a driver going the opposite direction had seen black smoke going under her car. The driver then turned around, stopped his vehicle nearby and ran toward her.
“That’s when smoke started coming out of the front of the car. I thought it was nothing big,” Hampton said. “But the man started running towards me yelling ‘Get out of the car, get out of the car, it’s going to explode!'”
Hampton said she grabbed her things and got out right away. She didn’t think it was that big of a fire. A few minutes later the front of the vehicle was engulfed in flames.
“I was about to call my daughter when I was in the car. If it wasn’t for that man…I wouldn’t have gotten out. I swear to… I wouldn’t have gotten out,” Hampton said. “I could have died. Easily.”
Hampton said she could not be more thankful for the stranger that saved her, but remains frustrated with Kia. The Speedy Lube invoice shows the vehicle having less than 60,000 miles at that point.
Kia Motors had been recalling 295,000 U.S. vehicles for engine fire risks since December.
CNBC reported the Korean automaker recalling some 2012-2013 model year Sorento, 2012-2015 Forte and Forte Koup, 2011-2013 Optima Hybrid, 2014-2015 Soul and 2012 Sportage vehicles.
Kia has also agreed and affiliate Hyundai Motor agreed to a record $210 million civil penalty after U.S. auto safety regulators said they failed to recall 1.6 million vehicles for engine issues in a timely fashion.
Hampton said her 2018 Kia Soul was not included in the recall, but she suspected similar issues.
“People need to be aware that this could happen,” Hampton said. “Every time I pass though that area my heart starts pounding.”
Hampton said Kia told her they would be conducting an investigation.
6 News contacted Kia on Monday and a spokesman said the company’s Consumer Affairs team was still working to reach out to Hampton.
Written by Andrew Moore