South Carolina

South Carolina Driver Killed by Exploding Air Bag Inflator

Recalls drove Japan’s Takata into bankruptcy and brought criminal charges against the company

This Sunday, June 25, 2017, photo shows TK Holdings Inc. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. A government effort to speed up recalls of more than 21 million of the most dangerous Takata air bag inflators is falling short, according to an analysis of completion rates by The Associated Press.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

A driver in South Carolina is the latest person to be killed by an exploding Takata air bag inflator.

Honda said Wednesday that a faulty driver's air bag blew apart in a crash involving a 2002 Honda Accord in Lancaster County, South Carolina. The company wouldn't give details of the Jan. 9 crash near Charlotte, North Carolina, nor would it identify the person who was killed.

Honda officials and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration inspected the car and the air bag parts on Wednesday and determined that the inflator had ruptured, the company said. The death is the 19th in the U.S. since 2009 and the 28th worldwide caused by the faulty inflators.

Takata used volatile ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags in a crash. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air. The explosion can blow apart a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The problem caused the largest series of auto recalls in U.S. history, with at least 63 million inflators recalled. The U.S. government says that as of last year, more than 11.1 million had not been fixed. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.

Most of the deaths have been in the U.S., but they also have occurred in Australia and Malaysia.

Honda said it has shared all the information it has with NHTSA and will continue to cooperate in the latest investigation.

The company said the Accord in the South Carolina crash was recalled in April of 2011. Starting in June of 2011, the company made more than 100 attempts to reach owners of the car including mailed notices, phone calls, emails and even in-person visits, the statement said.

“Our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed,” the statement said.

The company said the driver who was killed was not the registered owner of the Accord, and Honda does not know if the driver knew about the unrepaired recall.

The car has changed ownership several times, most recently in October of 2020, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said. The company sent the current owner a recall notice on Nov. 17, 2020, Martin said.

Honda says it has adequate supplies of replacement inflators, and it is urging people to get recall repairs done, especially of older models.

Drivers can check to see if their vehicles have been recalled by going to and keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number.

The recalls drove Japan’s Takata into bankruptcy and brought criminal charges against the company. Eventually it was purchased by a Chinese-owned auto parts supplier.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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