Seventh death may be linked to exploding Takata airbag inflators

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind testifies before a House panel seeking more information in the ongoing exploding Takata airbag inflator recall.

A Louisiana woman, who died four days after sustaining injuries in a single-car accident, may be the seventh fatality linked to exploding Takata airbag inflators. According to a complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Lafayette, La., Kylan Langlinais, 22, died of injuries received in an April 5 crash. The complaint says the 2005 Honda Accord Langlinais was driving slammed into a utility pole, Bloomberg reported late yesterday. Her death came four days after the accident. The driver-side airbag apparently deployed with too much force hurling shrapnel-like shards of metal scything through the passenger compartment in the 4 a.m. accident. In an ironic twist, Langlinais’ Accord was recalled by Honda two days after the April 5 accident. Langlinais died two days later from her injuries.

Atty. Kenneth D. St. Pe, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kylan’s mother, Crystal Langlinais, said, “When she was in the hospital, they did exploratory surgery and found no other injuries … Her sole injury was that her throat was cut open.” The attorney also said he did not believe alcohol was a factor in the accident. The attorney also noted that since there was extensive damage to the vehicle it probably wasn’t a low-speed crash. There were no witnesses.

The latest report comes less than three after Takata’s acknowledgment that its airbag inflators had a defect. Takata signed a consent decree admitting the problem with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), May 19. As soon as the airbag manufacturer signed the decree, the airbag recall in the U.S. grew from 17 million to nearly 34 million vehicles. An estimated 50 million vehicles are affected worldwide.

Honda has been studying the crash since it received notification that the accident had occurred. A spokesman said the automaker has been gathering information about it. Airbag manufacturer Takata had no comment.

So far, exploding Takata airbag inflators have claimed six lives and have injured more than 100 others. Researchers have been looking for the cause of the problem. A consortium of 10 automakers has been looking at the issue. Honda, whose vehicles have been heavily impacted because Takata was its primary airbag supplier until recently, has also been conducting its own probe. Takata’s own has focused on the design of the airbag inflators, one of which, in particular, seems to have been involved in the recall. The probe has also apparently looked at the explosive used to deploy Takata’s airbags. The company told a House panel this week that it was planning to make changes in the propellant, ammonium nitrate.

Until the agreement with NHTSA, the airbag recall had been limited to warm, humid regions such as the South, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii and the American Pacific Trust islands. The recall was also limited to passenger-side airbag systems. NHTSA had been trying to expand the recall and achieved that with the agreement. The recall now covers passenger-side and driver-side airbags nationwide.

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