Baton Rouge death now tied to exploding Takata air bag
BATON ROUGE -- A 60-year-old man's death from a July crash has now been linked to a faulty Takata air bag inflator , Honda said Tuesday night.
The death of George Robertson "Rob" Sharp, Jr. Sharp brings to 20 the number of people whose deaths have been attributed to the air bag systems, which can explode with too much force and hurl shrapnel into car and truck cabins.
Sharp crashed his 2004 Honda Civic into the back of another car. Investigators from the car maker and the National Highway Traffic Safety Safety Administration examined the car Tuesday and confirmed the report, Honda spokesman Marcos Frommer said.
Frommer said Honda learned about the death only recently.
Takata uses ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates air bags in a crash. The chemical can deteriorate when exposed to high temperatures and humidity. It then may burn too fast, blowing apart a metal canister.
The problem has touched off the largest series of automotive recalls in U.S. history — involving 42 million vehicles and as many as 69 million inflators — and forced Takata of Japan into bankruptcy. More than 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.
Honda says Sharp's car's air bag apparently was salvaged from another vehicle, a 2002 Civic. The owners of the 2004 Civic also had been sent multiple recall notices to replace the original inflator starting in June 2014, but the repair had not been made, Honda said.
The company said it is cooperating with the government investigation.
Word of the cause of the death comes about a month after a report on the Takata recalls showed that automakers have replaced only 43 percent of the faulty parts even though recalls have been underway for more than 15 years.
NHTSA coordinated the recalls and phased them in two years ago. Before that, the automakers were obtaining parts and distributing them on their own.Typically, automakers fix 75 percent of vehicles within 18 months after the recall is announced.
Honda, Takata's largest customer, has been going door-to-door trying to persuade owners to get their cars repaired. The company also is using Facebook in an effort to track down owners.
Frommer said the inflator from the 2002 Civic that was placed in the 2004 Civic in Baton Rouge likely was one of the most dangerous types made by Takata. Some of the inflators in 2001-2003 Hondas have as much as a 50 percent chance of blowing apart in a crash.
Owners can see if their cars have been recalled by going to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number.
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