Honda confirms ninth death linked to Takata airbag

Jan 4 - Honda Motor Co confirmed on Thursday that a Takata airbag inflator ruptured in a July crash of a Honda Accord and likely led to the death of the young driver, the ninth death in the world linked to the faulty inflators.

The death, first reported by U.S. auto safety authorities last week, is the eighth in the United States and the first since April tied to the inflators that have been recalled in tens of million of vehicles worldwide.

After an inspection of vehicle components in cooperation with regulators, Honda said it “confirmed that the Takata driver’s front airbag inflator ruptured” and “injuries related to this airbag inflator rupture likely resulted in the tragic death of the underage driver.”

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said last week the death took place in July in a recalled used 2001 Honda Accord coupe near Pittsburgh. The unidentified teen-aged driver was hospitalized after a Takata airbag ruptured and died several days later.

A NHTSA spokesman declined to comment Thursday.

Reuters reported last week that the death involved a 13-year-old boy who was in an early morning crash on July 22 after he apparently took the keys without permission from a parent and got behind the wheel, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Pennsylvania State Police have said a July 22 incident involved a 13-year-old boy driver who was the lone person in a 2001 Honda Accord that went off a road into a wooded area at 4:46 a.m. in western Pennsylvania.

Honda said the car’s prior owner first got a recall notice in 2010. Honda mailed a new recall notice on July 21, one day before the crash, to the new owner.

In November, Takata agreed to pay a $70 million fine for safety violations and could face deferred penalties of up to $130 million under a NHTSA settlement.

NHTSA last week named a former Justice Department official as a monitor to help regulators oversee one of the biggest and most complex safety recalls in U.S. automotive history, encompassing 23 million air bag inflators in 19 million vehicles manufactured by 12 car companies.

Takata’s inflators can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments.

All of the nine reported airbag deaths, including the death of a pregnant woman in Malaysia, have been in Honda vehicles.