22-year-old survives car explosion on Nashville interstate

Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A 22-year-old is on the road to recovery after his car exploded while driving on a Nashville interstate.

On Aug. 19, Drew Kubinski was in his 2006 PT Cruiser that had been converted into an electric vehicle when it went up in flames near Shelby Avenue. Kubinski purchased the car several years ago, already modified by a car conversion company.  

“It was powered by lithium-ion batteries,” Kubinski explained. “Well, one of the batteries shorted and exploded and it happened to be the battery that was underneath the driver’s seat.” 

The son of a fire chief never thought his dad’s advice would one day save his life.  

“In a matter of seconds, it shot up, [I] slammed on the brakes, I covered my face with my left hand, reached down for the seatbelt with the right hand, reached for the door and by the time that all happened the car slowed to probably like 15 or 20 miles an hour. And I tuck and rolled and just jumped out.” 

He was admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s burn unit with third-degree burns, as his parents were still several hours away. While his mother frantically waited for the next flight from Chicago, Kubinski’s girlfriend stepped in.  

“Basically, his skin was just falling off of his body, arms, chest, his hands were really bad. It was like someone had taken a glove and just pulled it off. And he was wide awake,” Molly Mensch recalled. 

Four surgeries later, she’s still by his side helping him celebrate little victories like wiggling his fingers.  

“So for me, I feel like I almost have like the coolest perspective just to see how far he’s come,” Mensch said. “You see him today, you know, he’s walking around, and he’s alive. That was not for sure his first night.” 

Kubinski’s mom remembers seeing her son for the first time in the hospital.  

“It was definitely a shocking phone call, one I hope no parent ever has to go through,” Emily Kuhn said. “As a mom, as a parent, it was tough just to see the amount of pain that he was in initially; I think was what really got to both of us.” 

Kubinski is now home from the hospital and goes to physical therapy several times a week to regain mobility.  

His parents call his progress a miracle.  

“It’s amazing to think it was just six or seven weeks ago that he ultimately saved his own life. I mean we truly do believe that,” Kuhn said as her smile broke through. “So, to see where he’s at today is awesome.” 

Now Kubinski warns others about cars that have been converted into electric vehicles, the way he bought his car. He said drivers with modified vehicles need to know how their electric car is put together, although he admits he believes buying an electric car directly from the manufacturer is the safest option. 

Kubinski’s recovery will take months, if not years, but he’s walking away from his accident stronger.  

“I was in a lot of pain at first and was just super sad and scared at first, but then they started to replace my skin and I could see it and I could start to move my hand a little bit more, and things started to slowly get better,” Kubinski said. “It’s going to get better, you’ve just got to keep pushing through it.” 

Kubinski is a musician and a car salesman, two sources of income he hasn’t been able to return to since his accident. He’s currently relying on donations from a GoFundMe page to pay for rent and living expenses. To donate, click here.  

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