Fourth U.S. traffic death linked to Takata air bags

Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:58pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman and Barbara Liston

DETROIT/ORLANDO (Reuters) - A fourth traffic death in a Honda Motor Co car has been linked to a defective air bag made by Japanese supplier Takata Corp, according to a county medical examiner in Florida.

Hien Tran died on Oct. 2, four days after her red 2001 Honda Accord sedan struck another car in Orlando and the air bags exploded, sending shrapnel at the 51-year-old woman, according to the Florida Highway Patrol crash report and Orange-Osceola Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jan Garavaglia. Tran may have survived those injuries, the medical examiner said, but she also suffered serious injuries to her head which were not caused by the air bag shrapnel.

Garavaglia said in an interview that shrapnel came "tearing through" the air bag and hit Tran, causing "stab-type wounds" and cutting her trachea.

"We connected the air bag to the lacerations of the neck," Garavaglia told Reuters. "That contributed to her death, but she has other trauma."

Garavaglia said the "devastating" neck injury suffered by Tran was not typical for what is seen when an air bag deploys in an accident. Garavaglia's office has not released the final autopsy report.

Emergency medical workers and firefighters at the accident scene said Tran "had two or three deep cuts on her right side of her neck that were not consistent with crash injuries," according to the crash report. The report notes Tran was wearing her seat belt and there were no broken windows.

Honda spokesman Chris Martin said the Japanese automaker just heard of the accident on Thursday. "We have not been formally notified, and have not had an opportunity to perform an inspection of the vehicle," he said. "Thus, it is too early to draw any conclusions. We are now looking into this crash."

Takata's U.S. spokesman, Alby Berman, said the company was not aware of the accident and would support Honda's investigation.   Continued...

A sign board of Japanese auto parts maker Takata Corp's Annual General Meeting is seen on a street near the venue in Tokyo June 26, 2014.  REUTERS/Yuya Shino