Tenth death linked to ex­plod­ing Takata air bags

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

A Ford pickup driver killed last month in South Carolina is the 9th per­son to die in the U.S. and the 10th world­wide be­cause of de­fec­tive Takata air-bag in­fla­tors that ex­plode, fir­ing off shrap­nel-like shards, govern­ment safety of­fi­cials said Fri­day, as they an­nounced a new ex­pan­sion of the largest auto safety re­call in his­tory.

Based on the South Carolina ac­ci­dent and tests of a dif­fer­ent kind of Takata in­fla­tor, an es­ti­mated 5 mil­lion ad­di­tional ve­hi­cles with po­ten­tially de­fec­tive air bags are be­ing re­called, but that num­ber could change be­cause there may be some over­lap with pre­vi­ous re­calls, said Gor­don Trow­bridge, a Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokesman.

The South Carolina crash oc­curred in late De­cem­ber when the driver of a 2006 Ford Ranger swerved to avoid an ob­sta­cle in the road, ran off the side and struck an­other ob­sta­cle, Trow­bridge said.

He said he was un­able to pro­vide fur­ther de­tails of the ac­ci­dent.

The safety ad­min­is­tra­tion found out about the ac­ci­dent last week, from an at­tor­ney for the vic­tim's fam­ily, Trow­bridge said. NHTSA in­ves­ti­ga­tors, po­lice and fam­ily rep­re­sen­ta­tives ex­am­ined the ve­hi­cle on Fri­day morn­ing and were able to con­firm the death was due to an ex­plod­ing air bag in­fla­tor, he said.

A woman in Malaysia was also killed by a rup­tur­ing Takata air bag last year, the only known fa­tal­ity out­side the U.S.

In the U.S., about 23 mil­lion Takata air bag in­fla­tors have pre­vi­ously been re­called on 19 mil­lion ve­hi­cles sold by a dozen man­u­fac­tur­ers.

De­spite the un­prece­dented size of the Takata air bag re­calls, NHTSA ex­pects the num­ber of ve­hi­cles re­called to con­tinue to in­crease, Trow­bridge said. He noted that there are prob­a­bly tens of mil­lions of cars with Takata air bags on the road that have not yet been re­called.

“The agency is us­ing all the tools avail­able to clean up this mess as quickly and safely as pos­si­ble,” he said.

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