Car engine explodes on way home from dealership
More than five weeks later, consumer says she can’t get answers from her insurance company or the dealership
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Twenty-year-old Emmalee Wyatt says she saved for years to put down $8,000 on her dream car, a sporty 2013 Subaru BRZ. Less than an hour after she purchased the car, however, the engine caught on fire while she drove home from the dealership.
“I got to feel the excitement of owning my very first dream car for not even an hour before it was just taken away,” Wyatt said. “It all literally blew up in my face.”
Wyatt’s financing documents show she purchased the car – out the door – for $24,900 from Victory Auto Mall in Tampa on April 30. She says she was on her way home to Pasco County when the engine stalled and things went downhill quickly. She was on State Road 52, about one mile west of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard.
“I started hearing like a sizzling sound and there was smoke,” she said. “I mean, within a blink of an eye, the whole car, it was filled with so much smoke I couldn’t see.”
She recalls the car going haywire and the door locks sporadically locking and unlocking.
“I could not move,” she said. “I was just sitting there frozen, freaking out, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see anything,” Wyatt said. “My eyes felt like they were on fire.”
She says a passersby stopped to help her out of the car.
“I could have died,” she said.
Wyatt says she scrambled to get away from the car, just as the engine engulfed in flames.
“There was just a loud boom and the engine literally exploded,” Wyatt said.
The Fire Marshal’s report shows the fire was “determined to have originated due to a mechanical failure within the engine compartment.”
More than five weeks later, Wyatt turned to Better Call Behnken for help, saying she wasn’t getting answers from the dealership or her insurance company, Geico. Even though she has full coverage insurance, she wasn’t offered a rental car, she says, and was not getting updates on her claim. She said she wasn’t even told if she was covered for this claim.
“I need help,” Wyatt said. “I can’t get any answers.”
She said she was forced to pay about $50 for Uber to get to her job at a nursing home since she doesn’t have a car. This, after paying $8,000 for a down payment and financing $16,900 for the balance of the used car she had for only an hour.
Investigator Shannon Behnken went to Victory Auto Mall for answers, but was told the general manager was busy and asked to leave. By phone, however, the general manager said the dealership feels for Wyatt but isn’t responsible and that what happened to the car “happens sometimes.”
When asked if she could get a refund, he said that was up to the owner, who wasn’t available and has not returned a call from Behnken.
Repeated calls over two days to Geico Insurance Company have not been returned. However, shortly after calls from Better Call Behnken, Wyatt says Geico called her to say her claim is now moving forward. It’s still unclear what that means for Wyatt.
Subaru records show Wyatt’s car had a recall for engine stalling but that had been repaired, records show.
Better Call Behnken will continue to stay on this story and help Wyatt navigate through this complicated process.
Want 8 On Your Side investigations delivered right to your inbox? Sign up to receive our weekly 8 On Your Side email newsletter.