HOUSTON - This Takata airbag inflator might look small, but the danger is significant.
“The propellant in the airbag is ammonium nitrate. Unfortunately, ammonium nitrate is also an explosive,” said Mo Aziz, Houston-area attorney and partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz.
Aziz represents the family of Huma Hanif, 17. The Fort Bend County teen was killed by shrapnel from a Takata inflator in the airbag of her 2002 Honda Civic.
It exploded during what Aziz refers to as a minor accident.
“It was a fender bender, and she should have walked out of it. The other driver walked out of it,” Aziz said. “The only reason that she died that day was due to Takata's defective airbag.”
Aziz also represents Serena Martinez, the owner of a 2002 Honda Accord, who survived her accident but suffered a large gash in her chest.
“If it had been 3 inches higher, she would have died as well,” Aziz said.
There's been a big push to recall and replace what's been referred to as "alpha" inflators, the vehicles posing the highest risk to drivers -- those in 2001-2003 Hondas and Acuras -- like the ones Serena and Huma drove.
But the Takata inflators can be found in thousands of vehicles still on the road, including some 2014, '15, '16 and even '17 models.
“For over a decade, Takata kept on selling this part into millions of vehicles, all the time knowing what the problem was,” Aziz said.
Other popular models on the list include:
- 2014 Acura TL
- 2014 Cadillac Escalade
- 2015 BMW X1
- 2015 Honda CR-Z
- 2016 Toyota 4Runner
- 2017 Mercedes E-class Coupe and Convertible
Representatives are working hard to get the word out.
Ana Ulloa, with Airbag Recall, works with other representatives, scouring parking lots all over Houston, checking for airbag recalls.
While going through a parking lot in Rosenberg, she scanned a plate that had an active recall on it.
“OK, you have the driver's inflator defected,” Ana Ulloa said to Shazia Arif, the owner of a 2010 Mercedes Benz ML350.
The recall has been in effect for a year.
“I really had no idea, to be honest," Arif said. "I've been driving this car seven years. I have two children. I have a 2-year-old and I have a 6-year-old."
She called a local Mercedes Benz dealer to make an appointment and discovered she was out of luck because the part needed to replace her Takata airbag inflator is not available yet.
“That is kind of disappointing that it's been out for a year," Arif said. "I didn't even know about it. And then they don't have the part, so I guess I'll just wait for it.”
Ulloa wants other consumers to know how easy it is to check for recalled airbags, even if they haven't received a letter from the manufacturer.
“Three seconds you check," she said. "You put the app on the plate number and then take a picture. It takes just three seconds to let you know if it has any airbag inflators in recall -- to save a life.”
The list of Takata airbag inflator recalls continues to grow.
To check the status of your vehicle in the most up-to date list from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, click here.
You can also sign up for recall alerts by clicking here.
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