— It appears the combination of a Honda car and a Takata airbag has taken another life, this time a 34-year-old Florida woman driving a 2002 Honda Accord.
Although it's not officially confirmed, Honda says the Takata airbag did explode in the Accord when the car struck another vehicle in Holiday, Florida.
Nichol Lynn Barker was driving the Accord when the car was hit by a 1999 Pontiac Firebird, causing the original Takata airbag inflator in the Accord to rupture.
The incident is under investigation by Florida authorities and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and no final determination as to the cause of death has been made. However, Barker's family says the airbag caused the fatal injuries and if true, will increase the number of worldwide Takata fatalities to at least 19.
Honda says 21 airbag recall notices were mailed over the years to registered owners of the Accord that Barker was driving, including 10 recall notices sent to the current owner. But the notices were allegedly ignored and the airbags were never repaired or replaced.
In response, Barker's family says they didn't receive any of the recall notices.
As Takata's largest auto airbag customer, Honda has dealt with the consequences of the defective airbags more than any automaker, leading Honda to spend millions of dollars to convince owners to get the cars repaired. The automaker has even sent employees to the doors of affected Honda owners to convince them to get the cars repaired.
The matter has been most urgent in states like Florida where excessive heat and humidity is common, two conditions at the root of the exploding airbags.
Inside the airbags are metal inflators used to deploy the airbags, and inside those inflators is a chemical called ammonium nitrate. The chemical is used to create the explosive force to deploy the airbags, but heat, humidity and time can cause problems with the ammonium nitrate and turn the metal inflators into grenades.
Honda and federal safety regulators warned owners about 2001-2013 Honda vehicles and the dangers of driving the vehicles without getting the airbags repaired, but the automaker can't force owners to have the work completed.
The Florida Highway Patrol and NHTSA know the ruptured airbag was the original airbag installed in the Accord and they say everything they saw indicated the airbag exploded in the same manner as other Takata airbags that have killed and injured occupants. However, the investigation has yet to show if Barker was killed by the airbag or from the crash itself.
First Australian Takata Airbag Death
A 58-year-old man is believed to be the first Australian fatality caused by an exploding Takata airbag as he drove a 2007 Honda CR-V. According to police reports, the man was driving the CR-V when it hit a Toyota Celica, causing the airbag to explode and send shrapnel into the man's neck.
Takata estimates about 2 million vehicles from numerous manufacturers are affected by airbag recalls in Australia.
Prior to the man's death, a woman earlier this year was injured in Australia when she was hit in the head by part of a Takata airbag inflator while driving a Toyota RAV4.