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A Woman’s Tragic Death in a Burning Car: NHTSA Releases Findings on Dodge Journey

In what we can only describe as a horrific tragedy, Mary Frahm, a 73-year-old Wisconsin woman, lost her life after she was trapped inside a burning Dodge Journey. The incident occurred on Dec.9 2022 when the car caught fire while she was still inside, and was unable to escape because the SUV’s doors and windows malfunctioned – at least as far as we know. This shocking incident prompted an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which recently released its first report on the matter.

In this article, we will delve into the details of this tragic story, including the events leading up to the incident and the findings of the NHTSA’s investigation. It’s vital that we get to the bottom of what happened in this tragic incident. This not only honors the memory of the victim. But, it also ensures that we don’t have any more burning Dodge Journeys turning into death traps. After all, prevention is key!

This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the importance of vehicle safety. It also highlights the need for manufacturers to prioritize the customers’ well-being. Right now, the NHTSA’s investigation into the burning Dodge Journey is still ongoing. It’s crucial that we continue to monitor the situation closely.

Last week, U.S. auto safety regulators announced that they are investigating older Dodge Journeys. The NHTSA’s investigation has shed light on several factors that may have contributed to the incident. It is investigating the SUV’s electrical system, which may have caused the fire. The investigation pointed out the vehicle’s faulty electric door locks and windows, which prevented the woman from escaping the burning SUV. In a document released last Friday, the NHTSA says the investigation covers approximately 82,500 Dodge Journeys from the 2009 model year.

Details Of The Woman’s Death, According To The NHTSA

Via: Northern News Now

In January, the Wisconsin State Journal reported on the tragic death of Mary Frahm who was driving her Dodge Journey near Madison when the vehicle suddenly caught fire. The reports state that Fraham pulled over when she noticed something odd: warning lights were flashing across the dashboard. She immediately phoned her fiancé for assistance.

As she waited, several electrical malfunctions began to occur: windshield wipers turning on, the horn honking itself. Also, the speedometer was acting erratically, or “going crazy,” she said. Windows wouldn’t go down — and the electric door locks wouldn’t work. Later she called back to say smoke was entering the cabin from the dashboard. Unfortunately, the windows wouldn’t roll down and the electric door locks wouldn’t work. This meant Frahm became trapped inside as smoke began to fill the cabin from the dashboard.

The newspaper says that Frahm called 911 for help. But, by the time first responders arrived, the SUV was already engulfed in flames. “The driver was unable to exit the vehicle, resulting in her death,” NHTSA wrote.

Stellantis Joins The NHTSA’s Investigation On The Dodge Journey SUV


Following the tragic incident, Stellantis, Dodge’s parent brand, offered its condolences to the victim’s family, expressing its deepest sympathy for the tragic loss.

Stellantis acknowledged the situation’s seriousness. They also pledged to assist with the NHTSA’s ongoing investigation. The company recapped its commitment to its customers’ safety and well-being. Furthermore, the Dodge parent said that it takes all vehicle defects and malfunction reports seriously.

Similar Incidents And Recalls Involving Dodge Journeys


The electrical issue with the Dodge Journey was quite serious in the 2009 model year. In that year, Dodge recalled about 17,000 Journeys. This was due to an electrical connector that could corrode and start a fire. However, a newspaper report stated that Frahm’s Dodge Journey wasn’t subject to that recall. That’s according to the VIN search.

Back in 2014, the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit organization, raised concerns about potential electrical issues in older Chrysler vehicles. These concerns centered on a component known as the Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM). According to the organization, the TIPM could be responsible for causing a variety of problems within the vehicle’s electrical system.

Through its investigation, the Dane County Sheriff’s Department said found that Frahm’s vehicle had a TIPM. This component “had a documented history of possibly shorting out or causing some sort of an electrical or mechanical abnormality with the vehicles.”

Here’s What To Do If Your Dodge Journey’s Electric Door Locks Fail


The Dodge Journey owner’s manual says users can unlock the doors manually. To do this, all they have to do is pull up the plunger on the top of the door trim panel.

The head of the Center for Auto Safety, Michael Brooks, says pulling the plunger should be the first priority to escape if your vehicle’s electrical system malfunctions.

While breaking the glass seems like the fastest and/or easiest option, glasses are hard to break. Brooks says this is because many windows are now laminated. But they don’t do this to keep users from getting out. Auto manufacturers laminate glasses to prevent people from falling out of the vehicle during a crash.

To prepare for unexpected situations like the tragic incident involving the Dodge Journey, Brooks recommends that drivers keep a metal tool handy in their cars. This could be anything from a small hammer to a center punch. In the event of an emergency, you can then use the tool to break windows and escape the vehicle if the doors or windows malfunction.

Aside from that, drivers should be aware of which windows in their cars comprise of tempered glass. These are the ones that you should break with the tool. Typically, the side windows comprise tempered glass. The front and rear windshields, however, are made of laminated glass, which is more difficult to shatter. By taking these precautions, drivers can be better prepared to handle unexpected situations on the road. Brooks said there should be a standard way to unlock doors or otherwise escape from all cars, and we couldn’t agree more.

Wilfred Nkhwazi
Wilfred Nkhwazi
🚗 About Wilfred Nkhwazi - Founder of Flagship Drive 🌍 Meet Wilfred Nkhwazi, an automotive writer, and explorer of the open road. 📚 With more than five years of experience in the world of automotive writing, he's the visionary behind Flagship Drive. As a seasoned writer, he brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Flagship Drive, providing readers with the latest news, reviews, and trends in the automotive world. Wilfred has a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the technology and engineering behind cars, making him the go-to expert for all things automotive. When he isn't behind the wheel, you can find him exploring the latest automotive innovations or attending industry events. He is also the curator of, where he dissects the finest details of automobiles.


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