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Denver Driver Experienced Exploding Sunroof

By Lauren DiSpirito

WESTMINSTER, Colo (CBS4) - A Colorado driver says the sunroof on her SUV exploded unexpectedly while she was driving last month. Reports of similar, spontaneous explosions happening to drivers across the U.S. are raising concerns about safety.

Linda Spry (credit: CBS)

On Oct. 11, Linda Spry was driving her 2012 Nissan Murano from her home in Highlands Ranch to her workplace in Westminster. Spry said that it was a clear day. Traffic was not heavy and she was traveling between 65 to 75 mph, when she heard a loud blast.

"It was very sudden, it was out of nowhere," Spry said. "It just sounded like an explosion."

At first, she thought another driver had crashed. Sunlight was coming through the edges of her closed sunroof visor. She noticed a trail of glass shards falling behind her SUV.

"I very quickly figured out that my sunroof had in fact blown out," Spry said.

Spry pulled over, got out of her vehicle, and checked her sunroof. she explained that there was a large hole in the glass and shards of glass were protruding upwards from its frame.

Sunroof Damaged
(credit: Linda Spry)

"I really just thought what the heck, just what the heck," Spry said. "How does this happen?"

Spry was not hurt.

Darrell Martinez (credit: CBS)

The glass in sunroofs, which is typically either tempered or laminated, is made to shatter into small pieces that are not sharp, said Darrell Martinez, owner of John's Sunroofs in Englewood.

Martinez has been working with sunroof glass for nearly 30 years. On average, he and his staff complete 30 sunroof repairs and replacement each month. About one in every 30 of those cases turns out to be unexplained, Martinez told CBS4.

"You're not going to get hurt with that glass," Martinez said.

Martinez shows how a sharp point of contact with tempered glass can shatter it (credit: CBS)

Though the glass is designed to shatter safely, the explosion can be startling. There are reports of drivers across the country experiencing sunroof breakage similar to what Spry describes. On YouTube, some car owners have documented the damage.

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating reports of spontaneous sunroof breakage in 2011 – 2014 Kia Sorento vehicles. As part of that investigation, NHTSA has reviewed similar complaints from owners of other vehicles, and has sent official information request letters to four additional manufacturers on 12 models with comparable sunroofs, according to a statement emailed to CBS4 from NHTSA communication and media relations spokesperson Kathryn Henry. Those four additional manufacturers are Ford, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Nissan.

The point of the investigation is to determine whether there is a safety defect in any of the vehicles that presents an "unreasonable risk to safety," Henry wrote. "If we find an unreasonable risk to safety, we would request a recall by the manufacturer."

LINK: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Spry says she asked Nissan to cover the cost of her sunroof replacement. She says her request was denied.

"I believe it's a defective product," Spry said.

Replacing her sunroof cost Spry approximately $1,122. She said her sense of safety is still shattered.

"I feel apprehensive every time now I hear a little squeak or I hear a little rattle," Spry said, "or I hear anything that comes from the roof, I cringe."

CBS4 contacted Nissan for comment for this story. A Nissan spokesperson asked CBS4 to have Spry open a formal complaint with the company, which she had already done.

Lauren DiSpirito reports for CBS4 News at 10 p.m. She covers breaking news and feature stories along Colorado's Front Range. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Lauren. Share your story ideas with her here.

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