Man suffers radiator burns on first day with new car

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014

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A man seriously burned by steam from a car radiator had bought the second-hand vehicle that day.

The driver, thought to be in his 20s, was taken to Hutt Hospital's specialist burns unit on Tuesday after the radiator of his car spewed scalding steam in his face, causing serious burns to a third of his body.

Witnesses who went to help the man said he told them he had bought the car in Levin earlier that day and had pulled over in Russell Tce, Newtown, about 4.30pm when the car overheated and broke down.

Residents in the area said they heard a loud bang and swearing in pain, as the driver opened the bonnet and the radiator exploded in his face.

A Wellington Free Ambulance spokesman said the right side of the man's face, his flank and abdomen were all burned down to the second layer of skin.

A couple living nearby ran a garden hose over to the man and waited with his partner and child for an ambulance as he doused his burns.

A resident said the man was in their driveway in "a lot of pain" under the hose for an hour as three paramedics sought to keep his burns cool and find veins amid the injuries to inject painkillers.

The resident said the man winced in pain as he tried to keep his scorched skin cool with the hose water.

"He had areas where the skin was peeling off underneath and to the side of his right eye, there was a bit of reddened skin and a large bit of skin off on his abdomen."

Consumer NZ advises that car buyers are out of luck if they are unhappy with a model bought from a private seller. However, if a car is bought from a dealer who did not take reasonable steps to ensure its roadworthiness they could be liable.

Simple Tip: Open with Caution

Veteran Wellington mechanic Phil King, of Grant Lummis Motors, has a simple tip when you suspect trouble under the hood.

"For God's sake, wait until it cools down - that's the warning, and never deviate from that," he says.

He had been burnt opening a radiator when he was younger and said the experience of a steam burn was nasty.

"It's like boiling up a big jug and spilling it all over yourself, but worse."

Drivers should pull over, open the bonnet and wait until the car cooled down before attempting to open the radiator cap to poor cold water in, King says.

"Wait until it cools right down until it's almost cold because the boiling water builds under pressure."

If it was not immediately clear what was wrong, motorists should call for AA roadside assistance.

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- The Dominion Post

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