Burnt to death in a Ford Kuga: what really happened?

08 December 2016 - 18:26 By Graeme Hosken
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The only way the family of 33-year-old Reshall Jimmy could identify his body after he died trapped inside his burning 2014 Ford Kuga SUV‚ was through a DNA sample from his brother.

So severely charred was his body‚ according to the post mortem report‚ his face was unrecognisable. According to the report only the skin on his soles of his feet was intact.

The heat from the fire did serious damage to his body causing Jimmy’s elbows to rupture.

Jimmy burnt to death while on holiday in the Wilderness‚ in the Western Cape‚ in December 2015‚ after an electrical fault behind the dashboard on the front passenger side of his vehicle set his car alight.

It’s been a year since his death‚ but still the family does not have closure as Ford has requested another inspection of the vehicle.

That inspection was done on Monday at a police vehicle impound in Oudtshoorn. It is the third inspection to have been conducted on the vehicle. The first was done in December 2015‚ the second in January.

Two forensic reports - one done by police and the other by an independent forensic inspector - point to an electrical fault as the fire's cause.

Despite the latest inspection‚ the family still does not know if they will ever get the closure they so desperately seek.

According to the Jimmy family’s lawyer‚ Rod Montano‚ Ford would not commit to handing over the latest forensic report.

The report is needed for the inquest into Jimmy’s death to proceed.

Ford has failed to answer questions from The Times about why it wanted to conduct another inspection a year after Jimmy’s death‚ saying only that it is assisting authorities with the investigation.

"When I enquired about Ford’s report findings and told Ford’s lawyer that the report‚ from my understanding‚ would be used to assist police in the inquest‚ I was informed that dependent on [their] investigation outcome‚ a decision would be taken as to whether they would supply it to the police or not.

“That is exceptionally unusual.”

The family wants closure.

"We just want to know what happened. We want those who are responsible for this to be held to account. We need this so that other future deaths and injuries are stopped‚" said Jimmy's brother‚ Kaveen.

The Times has led an expose on a potential critical safety issue around Ford's Kuga 2014 model.

So far this year 17 Kuga 2014 models have spontaneously ignited in South Africa‚ yet the Kuga has not been recalled.

Ford's South African executives are to appear before the National Consumer Commission on Monday to answer to allegations made by motorists whose cars ignited.

Ford‚ in earlier responses to The Times‚ said: "We take the safety of our customers very seriously. While we continually evaluate our processes for potential improvements‚ our decisions are driven by the data available. When the data indicate a safety recall is needed‚ we move quickly on behalf of our customers."

The company has not said what data they would need to recall a vehicle.

On the investigation into Jimmy's death Ford said it would be inappropriate to comment.

TMG Digital/The Times

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