U.S. confirms 11th death due to Takata air bags

Associated Press

Detroit — The U.S. government is confirming another death due to the rupture of an air bag made by Takata Corp.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said late Thursday that a 50-year-old woman died Sept. 30 in Riverside County, California. Honda Motor Co. confirmed the woman’s death and said she was driving a 2001 Civic.

This is the 11th known U.S. fatality attributed to Takata air bags. The air bags can inflate with too much force, which causes them to rupture and spew shrapnel into the vehicle.

The problem touched off what is now the largest auto recall in U.S. history. More than 69 million inflators have been recalled in the U.S. and more than 100 million worldwide.

In a statement release Thursday evening, Takata said, “Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver’s family. This tragedy underscores the importance of replacing those airbag inflators that have been recalled by automakers. Takata strongly urges all consumers to check NHTSA’s www.safercar.gov website and contact their dealers immediately if they discover their vehicle is subject to a recall.”

As of June, Ford Motor Co. has recalled more than 1.9 million vehicles in North America with Takata inflators. General Motors Co. has said it may ultimately recall as many as 6.8 million vehicles. Last month, the company requested a one-year delay from federal regulators of a planned recall of 980,000 vehicles with Takata air bag infiltrators that were specially designed for GM trucks and SUVs. At least 4.3 million vehicles from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have been recalled, as well.

NHTSA says the inflators’ propensity to rupture is highest in humid climates. Besides the 11 deaths, Takata inflators has been tied to more than 100 injuries in the United States.

The recalls are being conducted in phases, with priority given to vehicles that were sold in states with high temperatures and humidity, such as Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The lowest priority is being given to cars sold in cooler states, including Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced.