Texas teen becomes 10th Takata airbag-related fatality

An upset Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., holds a Takata airbag system at last year’s hearings into the largest safety recall in history involving failing Takata airbags. Late last month, a Texas teen became the 10th reported U.S. death.

The death toll in the Takata airbag crisis has hit 10 in the United States. The latest death happened March 31 in Texas when shrapnel from an exploding airbag inflator struck and killed a 17-year-old high school senior who was driving a 2002 Honda Civic. According to Honda, the accident occurred in Ft. Bend County, Texas. The Honda was already under recall as part of the record-breaking Takata airbag inflator recall. The owner received multiple recall notices. However, the repairs were not completed.

Deputy Ford Bend County Sheriff Danny Beckwith said the high school senior was in lane for a left turn when the car she was operating struck the rear of a Honda CR-V. “Everybody should have walked away from this,” Deputy Sheriff Beckwith said. He indicated the young driver was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering fatal wounds to her neck.

With the 10th death in the U.S., the worldwide toll has now climbed to 11. Ten of the victims have been driving Honda vehicles, while the 11th operator was driving a Ford Ranger whose airbag deployed, rupturing and bursting the inflator housing whose shards scythed through the cab, fatally injuring the driver. Honda has been hard-hit by this issue because it sourced its airbags and components through Takata. For more than 15 years, Takata was Honda’s primary supplier. Also, a total of 100 injuries has been linked to the airbag inflators which can deploy with too much force, bursting their housings.

An obviously upset Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said today that the latest fatality “shows that the current recall efforts are just not getting the job done. Takata and the automakers have to step up their efforts to locate, notify and fix every impacted car as soon as possible – before anyone else dies.” Sen. Nelson has been critical of current recall efforts and has urged action to speed recall repairs up.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) demanded Wednesday that “manufacturers work to a 100 percent completion rate, and take all efforts necessary to reach that goal … This incident highlights that the conventional approach to recall notification alone is inadequate. NHTSA is renewing its call to all auto manufacturers involved in the Takata airbag recall to intensify and expand their outreach to affected vehicle owners.”

Recently, NHTSA said automakers have replaced more than 7.5 million defective Takata airbag inflators. Honda has replaced about 5.4 million – about 54 percent – of the vehicles that recalled through December. The rate is the highest completion rate of any automaker. Meantime, the industry as a whole has replaced about one-third of the 22.5 million inflators that are involved in recalls at the moment. Honda has urged its owners to have recall repairs completed as quickly as possible. He said that the company has “sufficient supplies of replacement inflators to complete the required repairs under the open recall that affects this vehicle.” The automaker also noted that it continues to “encourage all owners of affected vehicles to seek repair immediately.”

The automaker was frank in admitting while it had sufficient replacement parts for the existing recall, it comes up short in a recall announced in February. However, Honda said it expected to begin receiving replacement parts for that recall within days.

This story was based on information provided by Reuters.

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