California victim of Takata air bag
Jewel Brangman, 26, was driving a rented Honda that had been recalled for the defect but never repaired.
Woman was driving a rented Honda that had been recalled for defect but never repaired.
Honda and federal safety officials on Friday confirmed the first California fatality caused by exploding Takata air bags.
The death of Jewel Brangman, 26, in a Los Angeles crash Sept. 7 resulted from a combination of common safety failures. Brangman was driving a rented Civic that had been recalled for the air bag problem but never fixed. Moreover, it was a car that was totaled in an earlier crash, rebuilt and tagged with a salvage title.
The accident should bolster federal regulators’ calls to outlaw the rental or sale of any vehicle with unrepaired recalls, said Mark Rosekind, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Brangman was driving a 2001 Honda Civic from Sunset Car Rental in San Diego that had been recalled several times for air bag inflater problems. Sunset has a disconnected phone number and could not be reached for comment.
The fatality exposes “one of the f laws in the recall system, “said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “The information doesn’t always get to the person who is driving the car.”
The air bag problem sparked a recall earlier this year of 34 million vehicles from many different brands. It was the largest automobile recall in history and among the largest of any U.S. consumer product. A metal canister in the air bag system can explode, spraying shrapnel into the cabin.
Brangman suffered a laceration to the left side of her neck and a severe brain injury, according to a Los Angeles County Superior Court lawsuit filed by her family earlier this year. The suit alleges that both Takata and Honda had known for years that there were problems with the air bag inflaters and should have moved more quickly to fix the vehicles.
On Friday, a Honda spokesman declined to say whether the automaker was in settlement talks with Brangman’s family. The company did issue a statement saying that it is “in communication with representatives of the family in an effort to address their concerns.”
Honda has now confirmed six deaths and more than 60 injuries in the U.S. related to Takata air bag inflater explosions. Most of the incidents have occurred in regions with high heat and humidity, including Florida, Texas and Louisiana. The latest incident demonstrates that the inflaters can explode in milder climates, Ditlow said.
Honda said the vehicle driven by Brangman had a checkered history.
The Civic was issued a salvage title in California in October 2011. It was sold through an automobile auction to Sunset Car Rentals, a small agency, in November 2011. Brangman rented the vehicle on Aug. 17.
Honda said the Civic was recalled to replace the inflater in July 2009, but various registered owners failed to bring the car to a dealership for repairs. The automaker said four mailed recall notifications were sent to registered owners of the Civic starting in August 2009.