Washington DC - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Wednesday an eighth US death has been linked to a faulty Takata airbag inflator - the first reported death since April and the ninth worldwide.
NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said the death took place in July in a recalled 2001 two-door Honda Accord near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The unidentified driver was hospitalised after a Takata airbag ruptured, but died several days later. The victim was apparently a 13-year-old boy who was involved in an early morning crash after he took the keys without permission and got behind the wheel.
Pennsylvania State Police, in a brief summation issued publicly at the time, said the 22 July incident involved a 13-year-old male who was the lone person in a 2001 Honda Accord that went off the road into a wooded area at 4.46am in Mercer County in western Pennsylvania.
The Accord went down a 1.2metre embankment, traveled 96 metres - almost the length of a football field - and then struck a fallen tree. There was no mention of the airbag in the public statement, which said the incident involved an intoxicated driver.
Pennsylvania officials declined on Wednesday to release the official accident report.
Trowbridge said Honda, Subaru and Mazda would add an estimated “few hundred thousand vehicles” to the enormous recall campaigns based on additional inflator testing and that others may as well.
The expanded recalls for passenger side inflators include the 2005-2008 Mazda6, 2003-2004 Honda CR-V and 2005-2008 Subaru Legacy and Outback. Honda said it was adding 127 000 vehicles to it recall list.
Takata's inflators can explode with too much force and spray metal shrapnel into vehicle passenger compartments and are linked to nine deaths and more than 100 injuries.
All of the nine deaths, including the death of a pregnant woman in Malaysia, have been in Honda vehicles.
Civil suits involving most airbag deaths have been settled by Takata and Honda, which said it was working to determine the cause of the boy’s death. The company said the previous owner first received a recall notice in 2010. Honda said it mailed a new recall notice on 21 July, one day before the crash.
Takata said it was working closely with Honda and the NHTSA to determine the facts surrounding the incident.
The NHTSA said a quarter of vehicles recalled had been fixed, including a third of vehicles in high-humidity areas, where automakers believe the risk is highest for ruptures. But that still leaves about 15 million vehicles unrepaired.
In November Takata agreed to pay a $70 million (R1.066 billion) fine for safety violations and could face deferred penalties of up to $130 million (R1.98 billion) under an NHTSA settlement in one of the biggest and most complex safety recalls in US automotive history, encompassing 23 million airbag inflators in 19 million vehicles manufactured by 12 car companies.