SPANISH FORK, Utah -- After their 15-year-old daughter nearly died in a fire, a family from Spanish Fork is demanding change from a popular vehicle manufacturer.
Baylee Hoaldridge was riding in a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) on July 4 when it tipped and then suddenly burst into flames.
“We were just having an amazing experience, went from that to a nightmare within seconds,” said BJ Hoaldridge, Baylee’s father.
Hoaldridge had rented a brand new Polaris RZR 900 from a store in Springville to enjoy the holiday weekend. He and his family rode the UTV for several hours Friday, without issue. On Saturday, however, they were in it for only 10 minutes before it caught fire.
“For the doctor to come out and tell me that my daughter’s life is in danger and she might not make it--I hit rock bottom,” said Baylee’s mother, Nicole Hoaldridge.
Baylee was riding in the backseat with a cousin, while her father and grandfather sat in the front. BJ Hoaldridge was turning the UTV, going about 5 mph, when it tipped on its side. Initially, he didn’t believe there was any issue. But then, flames started to spread. Everyone was able to get out immediately, except Baylee, who was trapped in her seat and engulfed in flames.
“I took her under the arm and just did everything I could to hold her out of the flame, and then grandpa came and saved her, unhooked her seat belt,” BJ Hoaldridge said. “At night, I’ll never forget the screaming. Ever. Grandpa can’t either.”
Baylee was rushed to the hospital at the University of Utah. She sustained third-degree burns to 65 percent of her body. The injuries were so severe they led to an infection, which forced doctors to remove her large intestine. She’s had about 10 surgeries since the incident on July 4, and she will likely spend another eight months in the U’s burn unit.
While her family remains focused on her recovery, they also have questions about how this happened. The Polaris model they rented was designed to roll and withstand rides on difficult terrain. Because of how quickly it caught fire, they believe there may have been a flaw within the vehicle.
“I don’t understand. I’m mad. I’m upset because of what my daughter is going through," Hoaldridge said.
A few weeks after Baylee’s incident, Polaris recalled its youth RZR vehicles because “fuel pump retaining ring can leak, posing a fire hazard.”
“Clearly, it was not safe,” said Paxton Guymon, who is the attorney for the Hoaldridge family.
In the last few weeks, Guymon said he has found other cases similar to that of the Hoaldridges. He believes that, given the recall of the youth vehicles, it’s very possible a recall of the adult models is warranted.
“This was straight from the manufacturer," Guymon said. "If ever there is a vehicle that should be safe, this should be it. And yet, it caught fire from a simple tip. Anyone who has a Polaris Razor vehicle should be concerned about the potential fire hazard.”
In response to a request for comment, Polaris sent FOX 13 News the following statement:
“Polaris extends its deepest sympathy and wish for a healthy recovery to Baylee Hoaldridge. Polaris is actively investigating what happened in this terrible incident.”
While the investigation into the fire continues, the Hoaldridges are trying to stay positive. They attribute Baylee’s recovery to her strength and determination, as well as the support from the community and hospital.
“She’s a fighter. She’s an inspiration to everyone that talks to her,” the Hoaldridges said. “She’s got a long road ahead of her, and she’ll get through it. She will.”
Friends have set up a Facebook page, where the family updates the public about Baylee’s recovery. They’ve even made wristbands carrying the phrase, "Be Brave Baylee".
If you would like to show your support for Baylee, you can track her progress on Facebook here.