Burke Co. mom wants justice in car fire death of two small children

Updated: Feb. 10, 2020 at 6:26 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Burke County mom says she is frustrated, and she feels there has not been justice after the deaths of her two young children.

“The most handsome, most divine two people,” Kristina Frost says. “They had to be angels.”

Two angel wings rest on the chain hanging from Frost’s neck. One for 2-year-old Tristan, and one for 5-year-old Shawna. She tried to save them both.

“Every time you blink your eyes, you see it,” she says.

What Frost sees is a day in summer of 2018.

She was driving her newly-purchased 2004 Buick Rendezvous along the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway in Jackson County, North Carolina, when the drivers around her flashed their lights, motioning for her to pull over. She did, and went to the back of the SUV where her children sat in car seats.

“I opened the car door, there were flames higher than me already,” Frost says.

She tried to get the the children out, her own body on fire.

“I was pulling on [Shawna] so hard… and just yelling,” she recalled through tears.

She ran to a patch of grass to put out the flames covering her own arms and legs.

“I stood up, my daughter came walking to me all black, no hair left, no clothes,” she says. “When I ran to get my son, I saw his body explode from the vehicle on fire and land on the ground.”

Frost’s legal team claims her Rendezvous had a defective design from the start. She had owned it for two weeks.

“One of the gentlemen said it was like a bomb went off,” she says. “And I see it, I saw that bomb - it took my son.”

She and the children’s father filed a lawsuit against manufacturer General Motors.

A database search of government records shows there have been nearly four dozen complaints regarding the Rendezvous’ fuel system, with 14 specifically about the fuel tank.

WBTV called auto-litigation expert Michael Nranian to talk about this. He says what he finds significant are the recalls.

“For it to be raised to that level, it’s serious,” Nranian says. “Because recalls cost automotive manufacturers a lot of money.”

The Buick Rendezvous has had three recalls related to fuel. One in 2007 cited a problem with the fuel tank that could cause a fire.

Government records show the only un-repaired recall on Frost’s car was related to the rear lift gate.

One driver, the year the vehicle came out, submitted a complaint claiming the vehicle design leaves the gas tank too exposed to road debris. In 2009, a driver describes replacing a gas filler hose, “before it starts a fire,” endangering their family.

In 2016 – two years before Frost’s fire – a driver writes they were never notified of any recall, questioning, “does someone have to die before this issue is addressed?”

Frost filed the lawsuit against GM after her children’s death, but it was dismissed on a technicality involving the car’s age.

“To have this dismissed like that and say we have a statute of repose of 12 years, she had no way of knowing that,” Nranian says.

WBTV contacted GM. A representative tells us the case is “being decided by the courts” and they won’t offer a further comment.

Frost is appealing the case’s dismissal.

“This is nowhere near a specific case,” she says. “It’s a very objective fact that these vehicles are ready to catch fire.”

News reports show just a few weeks before her car caught fire, two others did down the road in Winston-Salem.

Both were also 2004 Buick Rendezvous.

“[That is] evidence enough to show these odds are way more frequent and way more possible than we ever could have imagined,” Frost says.

Now, Frost sees reminders everywhere, including her own scarred arms and legs, and the memorial beside the road where this happened.

She says she plans to continue to share this, with other families.

“If I have to be the example, and I have to be the one that stops it from happening anymore, and protect these children, and protect these families, God knows I was going to be the one to do it,” she says.

Frost says she filed for her appeal in January. As she awaits what will happen next in her legal case, she spends some of her time in areas like parking lots, leaving notes on cars similar to the one she was driving that day.

People purchasing used vehicles can look up recalls and other information using the vehicle’s PIN number here.

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