High school senior becomes the 10th US death from Takata air bags

RICHMOND, TX -- The brother of a 17-year-old Texas girl who was killed last week when an exploding Takata air bag sent a shard of metal into her neck said he never received a recall notice about his 2002 Honda Civic.

Faizan Hanif spoke during a news conference Thursday with investigators who said the March 31 wreck should have been a minor accident. Hanif said he never received a notice that his car might have a faulty air bag inflator, a defect that has now been blamed for 10 deaths in the U.S.

Honda spokesman Matt Sloustcher said the company mailed multiple notices to owners of the vehicle, including the current registered owner. Sloustcher wouldn't say if one was sent to the Hanif family, but he noted that the Civic had a salvage title.

Hanif said couldn't remember when or from whom he purchased the vehicle.

Hanif's sister, Huma, was driving the car when she rear-ended another vehicle that was legally stopped near the Houston suburb of Richmond. She was killed when the air bag deployed, local sheriff's officials said.

"I wish we would have received a notice from Honda so we could have avoided this tragedy," her 24-year-old brother said.

Honda is among 14 automakers that have recalled about 24 million U.S. vehicles to replace the inflators - the largest automotive recall in U.S. history - though only about 27 percent of the recalled inflators have been replaced.

More than 100 people have been hurt by the inflators, which can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and sending shards into drivers and passengers.

"I have worked of hundreds of these crashes in the county and everybody should have walked away from this crash," Fort Bend County Sheriff's Deputy Danny Beckworth said Thursday.

Authorities showed five pieces of metal from Hanif's air bag during the news conference, including a piece slightly larger than a fingernail that investigators say severed his sister's jugular vein and carotid artery. Deputies responding to the crash saw the metal fragment lodged in her neck, Sheriff Troy Nehls said.

The inflators are powered by the chemical ammonium nitrate. Scientists have determined that prolonged exposure to airborne moisture and high temperatures can cause the chemical to deteriorate. The inflator canisters also can allow moisture to enter in areas with extreme humidity.

Hanif's Civic was first recalled in 2011, but despite six recall notices, repairs were never completed, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Every quarter, Honda pulls addresses for registered owners from a database of state auto registrations, and sends notices to those with unrepaired recalls, Sloustcher said. The company said it also uses telephone calls, text messages, advertising and social media to reach people.

Faizan Hanif said he never saw a notice.

"I'm the one basically who handles all the mail at my house," he said, adding that he didn't want to get his parents involved. He said he couldn't remember when he purchased the car, saying only that he "bought it from someone else."

He said his sister, a high school senior who planned to study nursing, was returning to her job at a sandwich shop when the crash occurred.

Fort Bend authorities are still investigating the crash, but said there was no evidence the Civic was speeding. The sheriff said investigators also ruled out distraction by a cellphone or other electronic device, but said "we do believe that there was a distraction in the vehicle that caused her to crash into the vehicle in front of her."

Fourteen automakers are part of the recall. To find out if your vehicle is among them, you can check your vehicle's VIN at safecar.gov.

Takata's statement:
    "Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver's family in light of this tragic death. Takata is deeply sorry for all fatalities and injuries that have occurred in any case where a Takata airbag inflator has failed to deploy as intended. Takata continues to support all actions that advance vehicle safety and is in constant and close coordination with NHTSA to enhance consumer awareness. Takata strongly urges all consumers to check NHTSA'S https://vinrcl.safercar.gov/vin/ website and contact their dealers immediately if they discover their vehicle is subject to a recall."

Honda's Statement:
    "During an inspection today, accompanied by representatives of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Sherriff's Department of Fort Bend County, Texas, and Takata, American Honda confirmed that the Takata driver's airbag inflator ruptured in the crash of a 2002 Honda Civic on March 31, 2016, in Fort Bend County, Texas, resulting in the tragic death of the driver. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver during this difficult time."

Honda has shared all available vehicle history information collected to date with NHTSA and will continue to cooperate with NHTSA throughout the process of investigating this crash.

Since 2011, the vehicle involved in this crash has been included in multiple recalls and a market campaign. Multiple mailed recall notices were sent over the course of several years to registered owners of this vehicle, including the current registered owner. Our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed.

American Honda continues to urge owners of Honda and Acura vehicles affected by the Takata airbag inflator recalls to get their vehicles repaired at authorized dealers as soon as possible. Vehicle owners can check their vehicles' recall status at www.recalls.honda.com for Honda owners or www.recalls.acura.com for Acura owners or by calling their authorized dealer.

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