Man's smart car bursts into flames on Katy Freeway

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Area roads and highways can be scary, but most drivers don't expect the danger to come from inside their own vehicle.

Smart car driver Ken Osborne said he was seconds away from severe injury or death.

"A gentleman pulled up next to me and started waving to me, frantically. I thought it was road rage," he said. "He almost pushed me off the road."

The good Samaritan was actually warning Osborne that the back of his 2008 Smart Fortwo car was on fire as he drove home from lunch Wednesday.

"It was almost like an explosion. It was a burst of flames," Osborne said.

He said he barely made it out in time before the flames covered the car.

As a professional photographer, his instinct was to start recording, however he was shaken from how close he was to disaster.

"If I had gone another quarter of a mile, you wouldn't be talking to me today. I'd be in a burn ward or in the ground," Osborne said.

Osborne became frustrated to learn, he's not the first Smart car driver to report a similar fire.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation in December after eight similar reports of 2008 and 2009 model Smart car fires.

Attorney Randy Sorrels said even though the federal investigation remains open, he believes the manufacturer, Mercedes Benz should alert drivers to a potential issue.

While the investigation continues, Sorrels said there's not much owners can do other than be aware of a potential risk.

"A car owner just has to wait and hope and pray that nothing happens to their vehicle," Sorrels said.

Sorrels said the owners can collectively file a class action lawsuit because the resale value of those models could be affected.

He said with the time since the NHTSA started the investigation late last year, Mercedes should have found a solution or isolated the problem by now.

"There should have been some type of solution, some type of problem identifications that should have occurred in these last six months," Sorrels said.

Mercedes Benz USA issued a statement saying:

"The safety of our customers is our primary concern and we are cooperating with NHTSA in its inquiry. Such inquiries from the NHTSA are not unusual in such cases and are part of the exchange of information between the authorities and the automotive manufacturers worldwide."

An answer Osborne said is not good enough.

"What is it going to take? Is it going to take somebody burning to death in it?" said Osborne.

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