On the same day that the American Honda Motor Company announced their plans to restate their current annual earnings statement to reflect a projected $363-million in additional recall expenses (caused by defective Takata airbags), they have also confirmed another death related to a defective airbag in a Honda vehicle. Kylan Langlinais, a Louisiana woman was killed on April 5th, when the driver side airbag was deployed (following a crash) in her 2005 Honda Civic. “That rupture resulted in the death of the driver,” Honda said in a statement. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the Langlinais family during this difficult time.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which recently announced the recall of another 34-million Takata airbag equipped vehicles, had a representative present when Honda officials inspected the airbag and confirmed that it had inflated improperly. Representatives from the NHTSA said that they concurred with this conclusion after examining evidence found in the vehicle, medical records, and the police report. The family has already filed a federal lawsuit charging that the airbags were to blame for her death. “After examination of the vehicle and other evidence, NHTSA has concluded that a ruptured Takata airbag inflator is likely to have been involved,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a separate statement today.
Apparently the initial “safety improvement campaign” notification was mailed to Kylan Langlinais on April 2nd. “Honda deeply regrets that mailed notification appears to have not reached Ms. Langlinais prior to her crash,” Honda spokesman Chris Martin said in a written statement. This type of notice was sent because Takata only agreed to supply replacement airbags for vehicles sold and/or registered in high-humidity coastal areas of the U.S. If this recall had been a nationwide campaign (as it has recently become); she would likely have been notified much sooner.
Automakers are typically required to notify owners of recalls reported to the NHTSA within 60 days of the initial report. Since the initial reports were delivered in June of 2104, if Ms. Langlinais vehicle had been recalled instead of being under a “safety improvement campaign”, she would have been notified by September of 2014. Martin said that Honda was forced to notify customers in phases due to limited part availability. Vehicles which had been included in past Takata airbag related recalls were given first priority. “There is no way to predict specific airbag inflator ruptures,” Martin said in a statement. “Considering the unprecedented challenges of a large population of older vehicles and limited replacement part supplies in the early stages of the campaign, Honda phased the mailings for the Safety Improvement Campaign, beginning with specific vehicle populations and geographic areas considered by Takata and the NHTSA to be at highest risk for an airbag inflator rupture.”
Too Little – Too Late
Ms. Langlinais’ death marks the second time this year that a driver has died prior to receiving their “safety improvement notification”. On January 18th, Carlos Solis IV passed away after he was involved in a relatively minor crash in his 2002 Honda Accord. Despite reporting to the NHTSA in June 2014, Honda had still not notified Mr. Solis of the impending danger from his Takata airbag by January 2015. Takata airbags have been linked to 6 other deaths and hundreds of injuries nationwide. All of the deaths have occurred in vehicles produced by Honda.