Defective Takata Airbags Pose New Safety Concerns After Local Woman’s Death

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A Jacksonville woman’s recent death from a recalled Takata airbag — two years after it deployed with such force that it broke her back — shows that injuries from the faulty airbags can go beyond the metal shrapnel the airbags have ejected, causing the injuries and fatalities reported in other accidents.

Patricia Mincey’s April 13 death — the 11th fatality related to Takata — followed an accident two years ago in which her airbag paralyzed her and over which time her health grew progressively worse, according to the Florida Times-Union. The news arrives about a week after the death of 17-year-old Texan Huma Hanif from metal shrapnel that inflicted her with injuries that proved fatal a few days later.

Mincey’s accident raises concerns that the inflators are inflicting drivers and passengers with slower, more agonizing maladies that cause victims to prolongedly suffer while incurring thousands of dollars in medical bills.

So far, at least 14 auto manufacturers have recalled about 28 million Takata airbags from about 34 million vehicles, although government regulators have reported that as many as 85 million need to be recalled.

The problem stems from ammonium nitrate the Japan-based auto parts maker uses to create the small explosion that fills the bags with air, a different approach than most airbag makers, according to the Los Angeles Times. In Takata’s products, the chemical burns too fast and explodes with such great force that causes the metal canister to blow apart and hurl shrapnel at drivers and passengers — even in minor collisions.

The Takata-made airbag in Mincey’s Honda didn’t shoot metal shrapnel at her in that June 2014 accident, nevertheless its impact on her life was devastating.

Mincey had run a red light at only 30 miles an hour and crashed into a vehicle going 20 miles an hour. The airbag suffered a delayed reaction, but when it deployed the explosion was so powerful that it crushed her spine. Honda recalled the airbags used in her Honda Civic four days after the accident, according to news reports.

Over time, Mincey’s health deteriorated.

Mincey’s daughter Kelly Sims told her attorneys that she “witnessed her mother whittle away to nothing. She couldn’t talk. She couldn’t breathe on her own. She couldn’t move,” according to the Times-Union.

By late 2015, after contracting infections that blocked her airways and led to high fevers and convulsions, her health got worse. She died this week.

Mincey and her family have been involved in an ongoing suit against a Honda dealership and Honda itself, which the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration has fined $70 million because it did not properly report deaths and injuries related to 1,729 cases. Her family will carry on with the suit.

Her attorneys have asserted that Takata falsified test results but failed to notify Honda and other auto makers. The suit also says that Takata knew about the defective airbags as far back as 2001, and notified Honda about the issue in 2004.

Visit our Takata airbag recall guide for more information about the recall, including background information on the problem, which cars are on the recall list, and what is being done to help families address the nation’s largest auto recall ever.

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