Honda says Florida crash death could be linked to Takata inflator

Accord in crash was among 300,000 unrepaired cars considered particularly dangerous.

Honda said on Thursday that a Takata airbag inflator ruptured in a car crash last week in Florida, in what could be the 19th death worldwide linked to faulty airbags recalled as part of the largest automotive safety campaign in history.

Honda said the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord was killed in Holiday, Fla., after the inflator burst. An official cause of death has not been announced. Last week, authorities in Australia said the death of a Sydney man earlier this month was likely the result of a faulty Takata airbag inflator. He was killed by shrapnel in his neck.

At least 18 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide are now tied to the defect that led Takata Corp to file for bankruptcy protection last month. Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks.

The Florida crash involved a 34-year-old woman who died in a head-on collision July 19 near St. Petersburg when a 19-year-old driving a 1999 Pontiac Firebird turned into her path, according to local media reports.

The inflator in 2002 Accords has been recalled since 2011, and Honda said it had mailed 21 recall notices over several years to registered owners of this particular car. Ten notices had been sent to the current registered owner, but the repairs were never completed, Honda said.

"This is more evidence that the recall is failing and not enough is being done to find the affected vehicles and fix them," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said in a statement.

The 2002 Accord was among a group of more than 300,000 unrepaired recalled Honda vehicles equipped with inflators deemed to have a substantial risk of rupturing.

Last year, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged owners to stop driving the "unsafe" cars until they were fixed. The agency said 2001-2003 model Honda and Acura vehicles had as much as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous airbag inflator rupture in a crash.

Of the deaths linked to Takata inflators, 17 have involved Honda vehicles since May 2009, including five in Malaysia using a different type Takata inflator. One death occurred in a Ford vehicle in South Carolina in December 2015.

Scott Caudill, chief operating officer of TK Holdings, Takata's U.S. unit, said in a court affidavit last month that Takata had recalled, or expected to recall, by 2019 about 125 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 60 million in the United States.

Reporting by David Shepardson.

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