Texas teen becomes 10th US death from Takata airbags

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Thursday, April 7, 2016
Texas teen becomes 10th US death from Takata airbags
A 17-year-old died on March 31 after what witnesses say was a minor accident. On Thursday morning, the Ft. Bend Co. Sheriff's Office held a press conference to address the accident and airbag recalls.

RICHMOND, Texas -- Investigators say 17-year-old Huma Hanif was dead within seconds of the crash, the airbag sending shards of metal in her neck, severing arteries. Investigators say it was a crash she should have survived.

PHOTOS: Texas officials talk teen's airbag death

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Images from a press conference with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office about the death of a 17-year-old who died as a result of an exploding airbag.

The victim's brother, Faizon Hanif, says his family is still in shock after her death last week on March 31.

"It's just hard to lose her," he said.

Faizon described his sister as a cheerful person who made everyone smile and who wanted to be a nurse.

"She liked to help people that is why, even at home she is the most one who basically takes care of my parents," he said.

Fort Bend County Sheriff's deputies say the airbag inflator from Huma's 2002 Civic exploded during a minor crash. The inflator failed, sending metal into Huma's neck and severing her arteries.

RELATED: 7 On Your Side urges consumers be proactive on Takata recall

Investigators say the crash should not have killed her.

"I have worked of these accidents here in the county and everyone should have walked away from this crash," FBCSO's Danny Beckworth said.

Now officials there want everyone to check their vehicles to see if they have recalls, especially on airbags.

The problem is not enough parts are currently available to fix the millions of recalled airbags.

For those with open airbag recalls, Sheriff Troy Nehls gave this advice, "I wouldn't drive it, I wouldn't drive. This is the tenth fatality resulting in a default airbag in this vehicle, so that's really up to you."

Honda says it sent notices about the cars airbag recall, but the family says they never got those notices.

RELATED: Takata CEO issues public apology for defective airbags

Eyewitnesses described the accident in which Huma died as minor. It happened on FM 762 and Gonyo near Richmond. The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office says she rear-ended another car. Rudy Torres, the owner of Invisions, a barber shop on the corner, says Hanif got out of her car afterwards and collapsed.

"It was a minor accident, fender-bender. She should have walked away from the accident. She should have walked away from it," Torres explained. "She had a deep laceration on the side of her throat. It looked like debris from the airbag."

Torres was right. After an official inspection Wednesday of the teen's 2002 civic, Honda confirms a defective Takata airbag is to blame. The inflator ruptured becoming like a missile.

Honda says it was among the 24 million airbags that have been recalled in U.S. Their records show recall notices have been sent to the registered owner of Huma's car, but repairs were never made. The victim's sister told Eyewitness News she wasn't aware of any recall.

"They should definitely be trying harder to get those cars back," said 17-year-old Alicia Trevino, the last friend to see Hanif alive.

RELATED: 7 On Your Side: Easy way to keep track of your vehicle's recalls

Trevino says the two were best friends. Huma had just dropped her off and was heading to work when the accident happened. With her father's permission, Trevino got a tattoo on her side Tuesday of a message about enduring friendship Hanif had written to her.

"She was a very, very special person," said Trevino.

Huma, an aspiring nurse, is the second person in the Houston-area whose death has been linked to the faulty airbags. Last year, Carlos Solis, of Spring, was killed when his airbag deployed in another minor accident.

Ten people have been killed in the U.S. More than 100 people have been hurt.

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