CORONA (CBSLA/AP) — A woman who died after a car wreck last month in Riverside County is the 11th person in the U.S. to be killed by defective air bags made by Takata, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirmed Thursday.
Delia Robles was driving to get a flu shot on Sept. 30 died after she crashed her 2001 Honda Civic in Riverside, the victim’s son Jose Contreras told CBS2/KCAL9’s Peter Daut.
What was supposed to help save the 50-year-old grandmother’s life ended up taking it.
“It’s not like she was sick, and she had a terminal illness, and you knew this was coming. This happened from one minute to another,” Contreras said. “She was very loving, charismatic. Always had a smile.”
Takata air bags can inflate with too much force, which causes a metal canister to rupture and spew shrapnel into the vehicle.
Tokyo-based Takata, unlike other manufacturers, uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion that inflates air bags in a crash.
But the chemical can deteriorate when exposed to prolonged high heat and humidity and can burn faster than designed. That can blow apart a metal canister designed to contain the explosion.
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. Takata faces billions in costs.
Honda said Robles’ car was included in multiple recalls since 2008. The company said it had mailed more than 20 recall notices over eight years to the car’s registered owners, but its records indicate the Civic was never repaired.
But Contreras said he did not remember getting notices about the recalls from Honda.
He added that his mother was driving at the rate of only 25 miles per hour at the time of the crash. “My mom was a very safe driver. Seat belt was on always and stuff like that. She didn’t text and drive,” Contreras said.
He said he was angry that his mother’s life was cut short and was thinking about taking legal action.
In June, NHTSA urged owners of 313,000 older Hondas and Acuras to stop driving them and get them repaired, after new tests found that their Takata inflators are extremely dangerous.
The agency said it had data showing that chances are as high as 50 percent that the inflators can explode in a crash.
NHTSA’s urgent advisory covers vehicles that are up to 16 years old including 2001 and 2002 Honda Civics and Accords, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey and CR-V, and the 2003 Acura CL and Honda Pilot, NHTSA said.
They were recalled from 2008 to 2011, and about 70 percent of them already have been repaired, the agency said.
The older the inflators are, and the more time they spend in heat and humidity, the more likely they are to malfunction.
The government urged people to go to safercar.gov and enter their vehicle identification number to see if their car or truck is being recalled.
Up to five people also may have been killed by the air bags in Malaysia, bringing the number of deaths globally to as many as 16.
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