A year after the fact, another death has been attributed to the explosion of a defective Takata airbag. This time, the car was not even on the road.
Honda said Monday that the victim was using a hammer to repair a 2001 Accord parked at a home near Miami in June 2016. The company said it did not know what repairs were being attempted, but said the ignition switch was in the “on” position.
Eventually, the person activated the airbag inflater, which ruptured as the bag blew up, according to Honda. The individual, who did not own the Accord, died the next day.
The fatality was the 12th in the United States linked to Takata’s airbag inflaters, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and underscored the danger still posed by the faulty devices despite a widespread recall of vehicles using them.
At least 17 deaths worldwide have been associated with the flaw, which can send metal fragments flying through vehicles as airbags inflate.
“This latest tragedy is a reminder of the serious nature of this recall,” a spokesman for the safety agency said in a statement. “It’s essential to safety that high-risk inflaters are replaced immediately.”
Chris Martin, a Honda spokesman, said in an email the company learned of the incident through a legal claim in March. Honda determined that the airbag had ruptured and notified the safety agency, the automaker said.
The car was included in “multiple recalls” as well as a safety campaign related to the specific kind of airbag inflater it used, according to the statement from Honda. The company added that it had mailed 12 notices about the recall effort over nearly seven years to the owners of the vehicle.
“Our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed on this vehicle,” Honda’s statement said.
The problems with Takata’s airbags emerged in 2008, when Honda first recalled 4,000 vehicles — including the 2001 Accord model that killed the person in Florida — that used Takata airbag parts. But Honda vastly expanded the recall to cover more than two million vehicles by 2011. By this year, the safety agency had extended the recall to cover nearly 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles of many makes and models.
Takata’s airbag system is particularly susceptible to moisture and temperature fluctuations that over time can degrade the propellant used to deploy the airbag, according to federal regulators.
In January, Takata pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges related to its handling of the airbag defects and agreed to pay a $1 billion fine. Last month, the company filed for bankruptcy protection and agreed to sell its assets to a competitor.
Takata representatives in New York did not respond Monday to a request for comment.
The disclosure of the latest death came as a federal judge appointed a law professor, Eric Green, to supervise distribution of the fine imposed on Takata after its guilty plea. That fine includes a $25 million criminal penalty, $125 million in payments to individuals affected by the faulty airbags and $850 million for auto manufacturers who used Takata devices, according to a court filing.
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