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Honda investigating possible exploding airbag death
[TOKYO] Honda is probing a deadly crash in the United States possibly linked to exploding air bags blamed for killing at least five people, and which sparked the recall of millions of vehicles worldwide.
The unidentified driver of a 2002 Honda Accord died in a crash last week in Houston, Texas, and the cause may have been a faulty airbag inflator produced by embattled auto parts supplier Takata, Honda's US unit said in a statement late Thursday night.
"American Honda has been informed of a possible Takata driver's airbag inflator rupture in the crash... which resulted in the death of the driver," it said.
"Since this tragic event occurred very recently, no official cause of death has yet been determined by local authorities...We are currently working with representatives of the driver's family to gain the access necessary to conduct a comprehensive investigation.
"Honda has communicated preliminary information collected to date about this crash to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)," it added.
The US safety regulator has demanded a recall of all cars in the US with the suspect Takata airbags on the driver's side.
Takata's Tokyo headquarters would not comment on the latest fatal accident, despite a Bloomberg News report quoting the airbag maker as saying it was working with Honda to determine the cause of the accident.
Bloomberg also reported that the driver's family has launched a lawsuit against Honda, Takata and the dealership where the car was purchased.
Takata has been plunged into a public relations crisis over the deaths. The company is facing lawsuits, calls for a criminal probe, and accusations of "deception and obfuscation" over the potentially deadly defect.
Honda, which reports its latest financial results in Tokyo later on Friday, has also been named in a US lawsuit that alleges it conspired with Takata to hide the flaw for years.
The Japanese automaker, which has been hit hard by the crisis at its key airbag supplier, said the vehicle involved in the crash was part of a 2011 recall to replace the driver side airbag inflator. It added that it has no records of the repair work being done.
Takata previously confirmed four US deaths and one in Malaysia involving its airbags, while hundreds of injuries have also been reported.
About 20 million vehicles produced by some of the world's biggest automakers, also including Toyota and General Motors, have been recalled due to the risk their Takata-made airbags could deploy with excessive explosive power, spraying potentially-fatal shrapnel into the vehicle.
One US woman's death was initially investigated as a murder due to her grisly injuries until police switched their focus to the vehicle airbag.