More than five weeks later, the consumer says she cannot get a response from her insurance company or the dealership
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Twenty-year-old Emmalee Wyatt says she saved up for years to put $8,000 on her dream car, a sporty 2013 Subaru BRZ. Less than an hour after buying the car, however, the engine caught fire on her way home from the dealership.
“I felt the excitement of owning my very first dream car not even an hour before it was taken away,” Wyatt said. “Everything literally blew up in my face.”
Wyatt’s financing documents show she bought the car – out the door – for $24,900 at the Victory Auto Mall in Tampa on April 30. She says she was driving home to Pasco County when the engine stalled and things went downhill quickly. She was on State Road 52, about a mile west of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard.
“I started hearing like a crackling sound and there was smoke,” she said. “I mean, in the blink of an eye, the whole car, it was filled with so much smoke I couldn’t see.”
She remembers the car going haywire and the door locking and unlocking sporadically.
“I couldn’t move,” she said. “I was just sitting there, frozen, freaked out, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see anything,” Wyatt said. “I felt like my eyes were on fire.”
She says a passerby stopped to help her out of the car.
“I could have died,” she said.
Wyatt says she rushed away from the car just as the engine ignited.
“There was just a big bang and the engine literally exploded,” Wyatt said.
The fire marshal’s report shows that the fire “has been determined to be due to a mechanical failure in 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. Although she has full insurance, she was not offered a rental car, she said, and she has not received any updates on her claim. She said she wasn’t even told if she was covered for that claim.
“I need help,” Wyatt said. “I can’t get answers.”
She said she was forced to pay around $50 for Uber to get to her job at a nursing home because she doesn’t have a car. This, after paying $8,000 for a deposit and financing $16,900 for the balance on the used car she had for just an hour.
Investigator Shannon Behnken went to the 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 cared about Wyatt but was not responsible and that what happened to the car “happened sometimes.”
When asked if she could get a refund, he said it was up to the owner, who was unavailable and did not call Behnken back.
Repeated calls for two days to Geico Insurance Company were not returned. However, shortly after calls from Better Call Behnken, Wyatt says Geico called her to tell her that her claim is now moving forward. It’s still unclear what this means for Wyatt.
Subaru records show Wyatt’s car was recalled for engine stalling, but it was fixed, records show.
Better Call Behnken will continue to stick to this story and help Wyatt navigate this complicated process.
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