Safety regulators link Takata air bags to Louisiana death _lowres

Kylan Langlinais

The mother of a Lafayette woman killed in an April accident on Johnston Street has filed suit against Honda Motor Company and the maker of an air bag installed in Kylan Rae Langlinais’ 2005 Civic, claiming the companies knew years ago the air bag was defective and prone to spraying deadly shrapnel during a crash.

Langlinais died April 9 in a Lafayette hospital, four days after she drove her Honda into a utility pole in the 2000 block of Johnston Street.

Langlinais, who was one month shy of turning 23, was the only person involved in the 4 a.m. accident.

Kenneth St. Pé, one of two attorneys for the Langlinais family, said Tuesday the death was made doubly tragic when the recall notice for the Takata Corporation air bag system arrived in Langlinais’ mailbox two days after the crash, while she was lying in a hospital bed. She died two days after getting the notice.

St. Pé said the only serious injury that doctors who examined Langlinais could find was a severed carotid artery. That injury was consistent with other victims whose Takata air bags exploded and sent bits of metal flying, he said.

“As a result, (Langlinais) sustained a penetrating injury to the right side of her neck, causing an immediate and profuse loss of blood,” the lawsuit states.

Efforts to contact attorneys or representatives for Honda Motor Company and Takata Corporation for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday.

In a June 2 hearing of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, Takata Vice President Kevin Kennedy said the Japanese auto parts maker would fix the problem by phasing out the use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant for its air bags, according to a story posted on Car and Driver’s website. Car and Driver said Takata air bags have been associated with at least 100 injuries and six deaths.

These accidents have also spawned lawsuits, including a suit seeking class-action status filed last fall in California. The Langlinais lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court in Lafayette by the young woman’s mother, Crystal Lynn Langlinais. The 33-page complaint, along with media reports, asserts that Takata and Honda for years denied they had a problem with exploding air bags.

The suit claims Takata first learned of the problem in 2001 after an air bag exploded in an Isuzu and that Honda learned of the problem in 2004.

“According to Honda, the first known rupture of a Takata air bag occurred in Alabama in 2004,” which is more than 10 years before the air bag now blamed in Langlinais’ death was recalled, the suit claims. The suit also alleges Takata and Honda tried to hide the problems.

Takata and Honda issued the first recall in 2008 for just over 4,200 vehicles equipped with Takata air bags.

That number has grown to over 14.2 million vehicles manufactured by a number of auto makers that installed the Takata air bags in some of its models.

Those auto makers are BMW, Suburu, Chrysler, Mazda, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Acura, Dodge Ram, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Infinity, Lexus, Mitsubishi, Pontiac and Saab, according to Car and Driver.

St. Pé said the number of deaths caused by the air bags might be more than the numbers cited in studies.

“It makes you wonder how many people have died at the scene of the accident from injuries like this that don’t get to the hospital. The doctors don’t look at them, and nobody does an autopsy.” St. Pé said. “They just figured they died in a car wreck.”