Report: Exploding Takata Air Bag Involved in Fourth US Death

Oct 18, 2014 10:30 AM EDT | Tim Healey

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Japanese air bag supplier Takata had already been linked to three deaths due to faulty air bags produced by the company, and now a Florida medical examiner is linking another fatality to the defective parts.

Hien Tran, 51, died on October 2nd, four days after a crash in which Tran's 2001 Honda Accord struck another vehicle in Orlando and shrapnel from her air bag hit her, Reuters reported. According to the medical examiner, she might have survived the injuries caused by the shrapnel, but head injuries not caused by the shrapnel were too severe.

The shrapnel caused neck injuries including a severed trachea; however, the medical examiner, Dr. Jan Garavaglia, said that even though the neck injuries contributed to her death, Tran may have survived if those were the only injuries. According to the accident report, Tran had cuts on her neck that aren't consistent with crash injuries. She was wearing her seatbelt and no windows were broken in the wreck.

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

Takata said the company was not aware of the accident and would be supportive of the investigation.

The report comes as investigators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have been looking into whether Takata air bag inflators produced from 2000 to 2007 were sealed incorrectly, thus leading to air bags that would explode with too much force, possibly spraying shrapnel at drivers and passengers. Particular attention has been paid to recalled cars that were used in hot and humid climates.

Takata and nine automakers are cooperating with NHTSA in the process, and 16 million cars with Takata air bags have been recalled since 2008.

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