Man killed in crash never received airbag recall notice

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — When Florida Highway Patrol troops arrived at the scene of an accident in the Panhandle this summer, they found a 23-year-old Navy officer dead at the wheel with neck injuries which initially looked like a possible shooting.

A soldier then sent a message to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that the injuries were due to an airbag deploying in the 2006 Ford Ranger pickup during the July crash in Pensacola.

Although NHTSA is investigating and has not yet made a final decision, the family of Hayden Jones Jr. says there is ample evidence the death was caused by a Takata airbag exploding. It would be the 20th such death in the United States – and comes six years after a recall of this vehicle model began.

NHTSA’s recall notices for the 2006 Ford Ranger underscore the urgency, saying owners should not drive these vehicles “unless you go directly to a dealer for repair.”

Ford says it notified the vehicle’s owner of the recall – even going to the owner’s home to try to schedule repairs – but the Jones family say they never received a recall notice from the manufacturer and filed suit in justice for wrongful death.

Cases like this, in which the necessary repairs never happen, show the system is down, said William Wallace, safety advocate for Consumer Reports. He said the recall system is weak in part because it relies heavily on owners keeping up to date with recall notices.

Some states, like New York, require that notices of pending recalls be given to car owners as part of annual vehicle inspections. Florida does not require an annual inspection.

Hayden Jones Sr. originally purchased the vehicle in Tennessee from Dobbs Ford of Memphis, Inc., according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday against Ford, the dealer — which is now AutoNation Ford Wolfchase — and the owner and driver of the other vehicle involved. in the crash.

The eldest Jones now lives in Brandon, Mississippi, and the youngest Jones used the vehicle in Florida, where it was stationed in Pensacola.

Ford spokesman Said Deep told The Associated Press last month that the company notified the owner of the recall and visited the home, but he did not confirm the address visited. Ford declined to comment further after the complaint was filed.

Orlando-based attorney Andrew Parker Felix said no one in the Jones family was visited by Ford representatives or received a recall notice. The Jones family declined to comment except through Felix.

“These things are literally nightmares,” Felix said. “It’s an airbag that throws metal at you.”

Felix’s company, Morgan & Morgan, has pursued more than 100 individual claims regarding Takata airbags. The company says the Tennessee dealer “would have been notified of Ford’s safety recall of the 2006 Ranger at least 12 times between 2018 and 2020, but also did nothing to warn Mr. Jones of his vehicle’s fatal airbag. “.

Address changes can sometimes complicate recalls, said Gabe Knight, another safety advocate for Consumer Reports.

“The move introduces a potential break in the automaker’s ability to reach car owners,” Knight said. “Unless the owner informs the automaker (which is unlikely), the automaker is dependent on the address they have on file and registration records, which can significantly delay moves. “

Troops who arrived on the scene on July 7 found Jones dead from neck wounds and shrapnel in the truck bed. The other driver walked away from the minor collision uninjured, according to the accident report.

“I think we initially started our investigation as a possible gunshot homicide because we weren’t sure,” Highway Patrol Lt. Jason King said at the time. Highway Patrol, when contacted by the AP, gave no further details and referred the matter to NHTSA.

A document posted to the NHTSA database indicates that a Florida Highway Patrol trooper filed a report with the agency stating that the driver suffered fatal injuries “due to the deployment of the driver’s side airbag. driver”.

At least 28 deaths worldwide have been attributed to Takata airbags.

The company used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate the airbags in the event of an accident. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to humidity and repeated high temperatures – especially a problem in hotter, more humid climates. The explosion can detonate a metal canister and throw shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

About 67 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags in the United States have been recalled, according to NHTSA.

The last fatality caused by a Takata airbag occurred in a Honda in Lancaster County, South Carolina in January 2021.

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AP automotive writer Tom Krisher contributed from Detroit.

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