The family of a Michigan woman who died Feb. 2 said they believe her death is the latest in a number of fatalities connected to faulty airbags made by Japanese supplier Takata, which can rupture in low-impact collisions with lethal force.
Brad Moulton told the Detroit Free Press that his mother Dianna Moulton never completely recovered from the extensive injuries she suffered when a Takata airbag exploded in her 2002 Honda CR-V in 2002.
Ms. Moulton, a former middle school social studies teacher, was 71 when she died. In 2015 she told Bloomberg that she was making a U-turn in a Dearborn Heights, Michigan, parking lot when she struck a pole. That minor collision triggered the overly sensitive Takata airbag inside the CR-V to rupture.
“Everything was like I hit a Mack truck or a bomb went off. The bags just came flying out and there was smoke all in the car,” Moulton told Bloomberg.
A lawsuit filed last February in a federal court says she received multiple facial fractures, eye injuries, and broken bones in her arms and wrists in addition to severe bruising over her face, neck, and chest.
“(Moulton) got a very hard blow to the front of her face and forehead, and she had a lot of medical doctors and people treating her for her injuries. This is a shocking event that has recently occurred, and we’re investigating it to the full extent,” her lawyer told the Detroit Free Press, noting her death.
If it is found to be connected to the Takata airbag defect, Ms. Mouton’s death would be the 12th U.S. death caused by the faulty devices and the 17th worldwide. More than 180 people have been injured, many of them severely.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) last year warned that many older Honda and Acura vehicles were at a “substantially higher risk” for a potentially deadly Takata airbag malfunction and urged owners to immediately stop driving those vehicles until they were repaired. Ms. Moulton’s Honda CR-V was among those NHTSA said were most at risk, but her accident occurred before NHTSA’s public warning.
The Takata airbag recall has tripled in size over the last 12 months to impact about 42 million vehicles in the U.S. The number of airbag units recalled in the U.S. is approaching 70 million. The defect stems from the ammonium nitrate chemical compound in the inflator mechanism that makes the airbags extremely volatile and prone to explode.