— A Louisiana driver of a 2004 Honda Civic was killed after the car's Takata airbag exploded in a July 10 crash in Baton Rouge.
George Robertson "Rob" Sharp, Jr., 60, died the day after the crash when his Civic crashed into the rear of another vehicle, sending metal airbag inflator fragments into the throat of Mr. Sharp.
Honda and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the death was caused by the ruptured airbag inflator.
Tens of millions of vehicles from numerous manufacturers have been recalled to replace the metal canisters used to inflate the airbags in a crash. Inside those metal inflators is a chemical called ammonium nitrate used to create the explosive force to deploy the airbags.
However, after reports of airbags exploding and causing deaths and injuries, scientists determined that over time the metal inflators can allow moisture to affect the ammonium nitrate by making it unstable. What should be a small quick explosion turns the metal inflator into a grenade, even in the smallest fender-bender.
Honda determined the 2004 Civic had been recalled because of the Takata airbag, but the car had never been repaired. The automaker also found the ruptured inflator wasn't the original inflator but likely came from a salvaged 2002 Honda Civic.
Honda has been searching salvage yards across the country to get recalled airbag inflators out of circulation. According to the automaker, more than 100,000 defective inflators have been removed from salvage yards over the past two years.
The automaker says it sent numerous recall notices to the registered owners of the Civic since 2014, as well as trying to reach the owners multiple times by email and phone, but no recall repairs were ever made.
This isn't the first time Honda determined the ruptured airbag came from a salvage yard because in April 2017, Honda confirmed a salvaged Takata airbag exploded in a 2002 Accord and sent shrapnel into the throat and vocal chords of 18-year-old Karina Dorado.
The 2002 Accord had been involved in an April 2015 crash and was repaired and sold in April 2016 with a salvaged title. But the airbag inflator that injured Dorado wasn't the original inflator and was tracked to a 2001 Honda Accord. The automaker believes the Takata inflator that ruptured was salvaged from a wrecked 2001 Accord, but apparently no one knew of the dangers.
A lawsuit filed after the crash indicates at least three Nevada companies were involved in transactions related to the faulty airbag inflator.
Honda has been hit hard by Takata's faulty airbags, with the majority of deaths occurring in Honda vehicles. Older 2001-2003 vehicles, equipped with what Honda calls the Alpha inflators, are especially at risk due to the age of the inflators.
Honda has spent millions in an effort to reach affected owners and convince them to get their cars repaired, even going door-to-door letting owners know there are plenty of replacement inflators ready to go.
The Louisiana death is at least the 20th worldwide related to exploding Takata airbags.