Honda confirms NHTSA findings; eighth death related to Takata airbag inflators

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., holds up a Takata airbag inflator housing and airbag during hearings on the huge safety recall early last summer. Honda yesterday confirms NHTSA findings that an eight airbag-related death had occurred.

Honda has confirmed the ninth death caused by an exploding Takata airbag, Automotive News said yesterday. The automaker’s confirmation comes a week after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) signaled that the July death was caused by an exploding airbag inflator.

The automaker had withheld its opinion on the NHTSA announcement until it had finished its investigation. Automotive News said yesterday the automaker had inspected the components of the vehicle, a 2001 Honda Accord, in cooperation with regulators and it “confirmed that the Takata driver’s front airbag inflator ruptured.” Further, the carmaker said that the “airbag inflator rupture likely resulted in the tragic death of the underage driver.”

The young driver’s death became the eighth in the U.S. linked to the Takata airbag recall. Worldwide, the total now stands at nine, including a pregnant woman from Malaysia. In an ironic twist that may have similarly applied to the seventh fatality, Honda had mailed a recall notice to the current owner, the teen’s parent, a day before the fatal incident occurred. The original owner received the first recall notice in 2010

Reuters, quoting people close to the matter, said the crash occurred at 4:46 a.m. on July 22, 2015. In the accident, a single car, driven by a 13-year-old, went off the road in a wooded area near Pittsburgh, Penn. The unidentified driver was hospitalized for several days after the airbag ruptured in the crash. The youth was unaccompanied at the time of the early morning accident.

In other Takata-related news, NHTSA last week named a former Justice Department official to monitor the hugely complex Takata airbag inflator. In total, more than 23 million inflators in 19 million vehicles made by 12 manufacturers face recall. Investigators are centering on the airbag propellant as the cause of the problem. Takata used ammonium nitrate to inflate the driver and passenger front airbags. When the propellant is exposed to moisture, it deteriorates, causing the force of the deployment blast to increase. In turn, the airbag inflator housings, not built to withstand the increased explosive force, shatter, shotgunning shrapnel into the passenger compartment, sometimes with deadly effect. More than 100 have also been injured.

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