Towed car destroyed by fire during family's long-distance move

Staff ~ Transcontinental Media
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There wasn't much left of this 1997 Honda Passport which burnt on Wednesday afternoon at Exit 20 east-bound on Hwy 104. Photo by Ray Burns/Transcontinental Media

Soon-to-be Newfoundland resident Jeanette Whalen is a master of understatement.

"It's been an adventure," she said just moments after her teenage daughter's 1997 Honda Passport was destroyed by fire on the shoulder of Hwy 104 on Wednesday afternoon.

Whalen was referring to the long-distance move her family is making from Houston, Texas, to St. John's, Nfld., where her husband Brian is from. They were travelling in a small convoy along with a U-Haul truck towing a U-Haul trailer.

She said they were on their way to the ferry in North Sydney for the final leg of the journey when Brian noticed smoke coming from under the Passport which was being towed behind a late-model Ford Bronco.

"I pulled over quickly," she said. "I pulled over and we unattached and then I pulled ahead."

Whalen said bystanders rushed to the aid of her and her family.

"The amazing people here from every direction came running with jugs of water and fire extinguishers."

She said once they realized the fire was getting worse the bystanders pitched in to help unload the household goods from the vehicle and move them to safety. Another bystander used the On-Star feature in his vehicle to provide a GPS location for the Alma Fire Department which was quickly on the scene to extinguish the blaze.

"This whole ordeal took a half-hour," she said while walking back to the Bronco to begin trying to cram some of their possessions into it.

"What we can't get into that we'll donate."

(The News, New Glasgow)

Organizations: Honda Passport, Alma Fire Department

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Houston, Texas, St. John's North Sydney New Glasgow

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Recent comments

  • arnold
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    it was towed b'y

  • Just
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    So, not being turned on eliminates electrical and I'm sure it wasn't air that caught on fire. That leaves leaking oil or gas as good possibilities...right? wrong? Geez b'y! haha!

  • Busy Bayman
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Too bad for the loss. It appears from the photo that it was being flat towed. The 98 Passport can't be flat towed unless the drive shaft was disconnected. The transfer case in this vehicle does not have a suitable neutral for 'as is' dinghy towing. I suspect that it caused something to overheat and ignite.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    How about this theory. Maybe the driver in the Bronco was having a smoke, tossed the butt out the window and the butt then blew up underneath the Passport and caught it on fire. All and all a sad outcome to a long haul home.

  • Just
    July 02, 2010 - 13:22

    Maritimers in general are amazing people. Nice to see nothing tragic happened except the loss of an imported vehicle. For anyone who owns this vehicle, it was probably the known issue of the camshaft-seal end plug, which can become dislodged from the cylinder head, allowing oil to leak and in turn cause engine damage and fire.

  • Brad
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Just Me that is a good guess, but the vehicle wasn't running, it was being towed. Therefor the engine would be cold and wouldn't be able to start a fire.

  • arnold
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    it was towed b'y

  • Just
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    So, not being turned on eliminates electrical and I'm sure it wasn't air that caught on fire. That leaves leaking oil or gas as good possibilities...right? wrong? Geez b'y! haha!

  • Busy Bayman
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Too bad for the loss. It appears from the photo that it was being flat towed. The 98 Passport can't be flat towed unless the drive shaft was disconnected. The transfer case in this vehicle does not have a suitable neutral for 'as is' dinghy towing. I suspect that it caused something to overheat and ignite.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    How about this theory. Maybe the driver in the Bronco was having a smoke, tossed the butt out the window and the butt then blew up underneath the Passport and caught it on fire. All and all a sad outcome to a long haul home.

  • Just
    July 01, 2010 - 20:06

    Maritimers in general are amazing people. Nice to see nothing tragic happened except the loss of an imported vehicle. For anyone who owns this vehicle, it was probably the known issue of the camshaft-seal end plug, which can become dislodged from the cylinder head, allowing oil to leak and in turn cause engine damage and fire.

  • Brad
    July 01, 2010 - 19:54

    Just Me that is a good guess, but the vehicle wasn't running, it was being towed. Therefor the engine would be cold and wouldn't be able to start a fire.