STONE COUNTY, Mo. — Customers who purchased fuel around Wednesday, August 9, at the Mule Express in Stone County have reached out to OzarkFirst after having problems with their cars.
“It was last week on Wednesday, I had left work and I was running low on fuel,” Nancy Burrell said. “When I left, pulled right out onto DD Highway and started down the road I had gone probably maybe a mile or so, and my car started acting up. It started kind of shuddering and acting like it was going to stall and a little bit of bucking.”
“I came and got gas from this gas station last Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. I filled my tank up all the way from empty, so I started on my way down, back home, down DD Highway, and about halfway down I noticed that I was trying to accelerate and my car stopped accelerating like normal,” Hayley Hayes said.
“I immediately went in and I called the gas station. I think there’s something wrong with your gas and explained the situation to them,” Burrell said.
“I called the gas station, made sure they were aware of the problem, and at that point, they said they went out, put the premium only signs on, took my information down,” Hayes said.
So what happened to their cars?
A local mechanic tells OzarksFirst he’s had several calls from customers and believes water got into the fuel tanks.
“I’ve had many phone calls with the same problem with the same problem, but being as busy as I am, I can only get so many,” David Daniel, the garage foreman for Kyle Automotive. “It is water. I’ve had the sample for several days and it’s gone now, but there was a lot of water.”
Both Burrell and Hayes say their cars still won’t start.
“If the water obviously sinks to the bottom of the tank and it’s trying to start off of water, which it will not run on the water,” Daniel says.
Daniel adds that the repairs could cost hundreds of dollars in labor alone.
“It can create components that will mess up the sending unit, the fuel gauge, the fuel pump itself,” Daniel said. “If it gets all the way into the actual system, it can mess with your injectors and make them not work correctly. Today’s cars try their best to run out of all different fuels so the car will try to run its best.”
So what’s next at The Mule Express?
OzarksFirst visited The Mule Express and spoke with Vice-President Mike Post.
Post says the station has had problems with its fuel supplier since it was bought by another company.
“We’ve had multiple issues with them ever since this has happened,” Post said. “I would say this is [the second] big issue that we’ve had that has caused some issues. We’ve talked to a couple of other independent operators and kind of have been can be using the same issue as well.
He tells OzarksFirst that he’s working with the company’s insurance company to assist those affected, a move corroborated by Hayes.
We did our research and we had actually had our tanks looked at. We ran all of our reports, found that there was an issue with it,” Post said. “We immediately had our tanks pumped the next day to get it done and then fixed and then we went from there and opened an insurance claim for our guest to ensure that we were taking care of them.”
“[An insurance adjuster called yesterday and] he was just starting an investigation and he was going to see they were still investigating whose fault it was, whether it was theirs or [the] petroleum supplier,” Hayes said.
Post adds that the company continues to work to find a solution for customers.
“As anybody knows, in working with insurance companies and with a petroleum company that’s involved in other companies that we ask, you know, please provide us some patience,” Post said.
Not able to wait, Burrell and Hayes say they’ve been blessed by others lending vehicles.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate. My husband is retired, so I’ve been able to use his car to go to work, but it puts him out of a vehicle,” Burrell said.
“I’ve got two kids, one that’s a type one diabetic, my son, so I need access to be able to get on the road at any given point,” Hayes said. “I’m glad that we’re kind of taking a step in the right direction to find a solution.”
As for the future, Hayes says she’s okay with continuing to shop at The Mule Express.
“I have no ill will towards the gas station at all. I really commend them on being in contact with us at all and not trying to shut all of us out with this issue. I’ve been a very loyal customer of theirs for seven years,” Hayes said.
Burrell says she needs time before fueling up there again.
“I’m just not sure. You know, I’ve used it for the last four years since I’ve lived up here and have never had a problem,” Burrell said. “I’m just not sure at this point. I just want [my car] back. I want it back in perfect condition, the way it was before all this happened.”
Hayes adds that she reached out to alert the public if they’ve had issues with their cars after going to The Mule Express.
“I’m hoping that by getting some media coverage on it that we’re able to share that if you did stop and get gas at this gas station and you have been having issues with your vehicle to go ahead and get in contact with them, let them know what’s going on, so then we can all get a resolution and get our cars fixed and get everybody back on the road because that’s really important,” Hayes said.
Post with The Mule Express says he’s encouraging people affected to reach out and provide their information.