59 2 LINKEDIN 6 COMMENTMORE

Washington — Another person has been killed by an exploding Takata air bag, but this time it wasn’t the result of crash. Instead, it was someone trying to make repairs with a hammer.

Ramon V. Kuffo, 81, of Hialeah, Florida, was working inside a 2001 Honda Accord using a hammer when the air bag inflator ruptured, on June 18, 2016. A medical examiner ruled his death accidental due to head trauma, according to a Hialeah police report.

It’s the 12th U.S. death attributed to the faulty inflators and 17th worldwide, including five in Malaysia. Takata inflators can explode with too much force when exposed to prolonged airborne moisture and hot-and-cold temperature cycles. If that happens, the inflators can blow apart a metal canister and shoot out shrapnel which can kill or injure people. More than 180 people have been hurt in the U.S. alone.

The problem touched off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history involving up to 69 million inflators and 42 million vehicles. Honda was Takata’s biggest customer before the problems surfaced. Last month Takata filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the U.S. and most of its assets were bought by rival Key Safety Systems.

According to police, Kuffo was in the back yard of his home near Miami, working on a silver 2001 Honda Accord, when a neighbor heard a loud bang. The neighbor went outside and found Kuffo sitting in the passenger seat of the car unconscious and bleeding from his face. Kuffo was taken to a trauma center, where he died the next day. Both air bags had inflated.

According to police, Kuffo was in the back yard of his home near Miami, working on a silver 2001 Honda Accord, when a neighbor heard a loud bang. The neighbor went outside and found Kuffo sitting in the passenger seat of the car unconscious and bleeding from his face. Kuffo was taken to a trauma center, where he died the next day. Both air bags had inflated.

Honda released some details of the death on Monday and said it only recently found out about it. The company has not been able to inspect the car and is relying on police photos to make its determination, Honda spokesman Chris Martin said.

The victim, who police said was not the car’s owner, was working on the interior of the car with a hammer and had taken apart the car’s center console, but it wasn’t clear what he was trying to fix. It’s also not clear why the air bag deployed, but police photos show the metal driver’s side inflator ruptured and shot out fragments, Honda said. The car’s ignition switch was on, so the air bag would have been ready in case of a crash, according to Honda. Martin noted that there is a deceleration sensor that activates the air bags mounted on the wall between the engine and passenger compartment.

“The rupture most likely contributed to his death,” Martin said.

The 2001 Accord has one of the most dangerous types of Takata driver’s side air bag inflators. Laboratory tests show they have as high as a 50 percent chance of blowing apart in a crash.

Honda urged owners who have received recall notices to get repairs made as soon as possible, especially those with the most dangerous type of inflator. Those models are the 2001 and 2002 Accord and Civic, the 2002 CR-V and Odyssey, the 2002 and 2003 Acura 3.2 TL, the 2003 Acura 3.2 CL and the 2003 Pilot. Honda says it has sufficient supplies of replacement inflators available to fix all of its recalled vehicles.

Multiple owners of the car were mailed 12 recall notices over seven years. “Our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed on this vehicle,” Honda said in a statement.

Honda said Monday that it has sufficient replacement inflators to fix all of its cars subject to the recall.

Takata has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. and Japan after the largest recall in U.S. history. About 46 million Takata air bags in 29 million cars have already been called back, with another 20 million to 25 million additional air bags set to be recalled with the next couple of years.

Takata announced in late June that it reached a deal worth 175 billion Japanese yen, or $1.59 billion, to sell its remaining global assets and operations to a Chinese-owned Key Safety Systems that is headquartered in Sterling Heights.

On Monday, the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Michigan announced the appointment of Harvard University Professor Eric D. Green to administer the $1 billion fund that Takata was required to set up to compensate drivers who purchased autos that were built with the faulty parts.

The previous administrator of the fund, or special master, was former FBI Director Robert Mueller III, who has since been tapped to oversee the investigation of alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign by Russia on behalf of President Donald Trump.

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

The Associated Press contributed.

59 2 LINKEDIN 6 COMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://detne.ws/2u0QDHm