Defective Takata Airbag Causes 11th Death — High School Senior Is Latest Victim Of Exploding Airbag Made By Tainted Manufacturer

Takata airbag has been conclusively linked to another death in the United States. So far, the exploding airbags, made by Japanese supplier Takata, have claimed 11 lives. The latest victim of the faulty safety device, otherwise meant to save lives during a car crash, is a female high school senior in Texas. The airbag that caused death was fitted in a Honda car.

Another death has been linked to exploding airbags manufactured by Japanese supplier Takata, reported Reuters. It is the eleventh fatality due to the faulty component in the world, but majority of the victims were in the U.S. and occurred when the ill-fated people were riding in a Honda vehicle. In fact, from the 11 victims, 10 are American citizens and of the 11 fatalities, 10 have occurred in a Honda vehicle.

The latest fatality occurred about a week ago in Fort Bend County, Texas. The victim was a 17-year-old Huma Hanif, a high school senior, reported ABC News. She was driving a 2002 Honda Civic and rammed into another vehicle at an intersection. The female driver rear-ended the vehicle, which was waiting for the traffic ahead to clear. The injuries sustained during the incident should have been minor, indicated news agencies citing onlookers. Apparently, the female wasn’t speeding and had even worn a seatbelt.

Hence, under normal circumstances, the crash wasn’t fatal. However, the collision was strong enough to trigger the deployment of driver-side frontal airbag, which was made by the Takata Company. Investigation would later reveal that the crash wasn’t the reason for the girl’s death, but it was the faulty airbag that was responsible for killing her. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. Investigators concluded her death was caused by a sharp object that hit the victim’s neck. The piece of shrapnel originated from the airbag system punctured. After puncturing the airbag, the shrapnel continued speeding towards the victim.

How can an airbag be lethal? Takata has been blamed for using faulty design which includes a rapid deployment system that relied on ammonium nitrate. Through numerous tests, it has been proven that the unstable compound can explode and send shrapnel hurtling at the driver or passengers. Honda is quite aware of the situation and has already severed ties with Takata. In fact, many Japanese companies have distanced themselves from the airbag manufacturer.

However, the recalls are still being conducted and the suspected airbags are still being replaced. So far, more than 34 million cars from 12 automakers, which had the Takata airbags installed in them, have been recalled. Safety regulators have stressed that these airbags pose risks of dangerous explosions that can release shrapnel into a vehicle, endangering the occupants.

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Incidentally, Honda has acknowledged the incident in a statement, but claims that it tried to get the vehicle in one of their service centers to carry out the replacement, but their requests were repeatedly ignored.

“Since 2011, the vehicle involved in this crash has been included in multiple recalls and a market campaign. Multiple mailed recall notices were sent over the course of several years to registered owners of this vehicle, including the current registered owner. Our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed.”

Owing to the sheer number of affected vehicles that have to be brought in for replacement, companies are facing a huge challenge to ensure a swift change of airbags. The process isn’t tedious or time consuming, but given the fact that 34 million cars need replacement airbags, automakers are struggling with their supply chain. Moreover, the situation is worsened by humid weather, and hence cars in Texas are being given precedence.

Honda has always been Takata’s biggest customer and hence has the largest liability, and a mammoth task to get all the Hondas and Acuras remedied, before the number of fatalities climbs further.

[Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty Images]