A Florida woman involved in a fatal car crash was injured so badly by her malfunctioning Takata airbag that police originally believed she was the victim of homicide.
Hien Tran died in intensive care a month after turning into oncoming traffic in Orange County in her Honda Accord, The New York Times reported. When she was pulled from the wreck, Tran had deep slashes on her neck. The airbag appears to have exploded and sent shrapnel flying into her face. A week after Tran's death, Honda sent notification that the airbag was under recall.
Along with 139 reported injuries, including 37 reports of the airbag actually exploding, Tran's is the third death attributed to the faulty airbags. Guddi Rathore died after a minor fender bender near her home in Virginia caused her airbag to deploy in her 2001 Honda Accord on Christmas Eve 2012. Shards from the airbag severed arteries in her neck, and she bled to death in front of her three young children.
On May 27, 2009, Ashley Parham also died in a 2001 Accord, after her vehicle hit another in her high-school parking lot. When the airbag deployed, "shards of metal exploded from the airbag mechanism, and that's what penetrated her neck and caused her fatal injury," a police spokesperson told The Oklahoman.
The faulty airbags have spurred two dozen recalls affecting 14 million vehicles from 11 different automakers worldwide. On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation urged the owners millions of vehicles in the U.S. to have their airbags fixed immediately. Replacement parts for these vehicles is in short supply, however, echoing the difficulties General Motors had earlier this year replacing faulty ignition switches in millions of vehicles. NHTSA expanded that recall to 6.1 million on Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press. Many automakers are focusing on repairing cars for customers who live in humid areas first, as high humidity is one possible cause of the malfunctions that cause the airbags to explode rather than deploy normally.
If you're unsure whether your vehicle is covered under this campaign, NHTSA has a new VIN lookup tool for all recalls recently that could be handy in this situation.