DETROIT — A man who died this month in a traffic crash near Sydney likely is the 18th person killed by a faulty Takata air bag inflator, Australian authorities said Friday.
The 58-year-old man was struck in the neck by a small fragment and died at the scene of the July 13 crash in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, according to a statement from New South Wales police. He was driving a 2007 Honda CR-V when it collided with a Toyota Celica at an intersection.
A police investigation found that his death “is likely due to a fault in the air bag.” If that conclusion is confirmed, the man’s death would be the first outside of the U.S. or Malaysia attributed to Takata.
Takata of Japan uses the chemical ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion and inflate air bags in a crash. But the chemical can deteriorate over time when exposed to high humidity and repeated hot-and-cold temperture cycles. It can burn too fast and blow apart a metal canister, spewing shrapnel.
So far 12 people have died in the U.S. and five in Malaysia. More than 180 have been hurt.
Takata air bags have touched off the largest automotive recall in U.S. history covering 42 million vehicles and up to 69 million inflators. About 100 million inflators have been recalled worldwide.
Honda said it has recalled the 2007 CR-V in Australia to replace a faulty driver’s side air bag, but the company said it’s not known whether the man’s SUV has been repaired. The U.S. version of the 2007 CR-V also has been recalled to replace both driver and passenger inflators, but it has a different type of inflator than the one used in Australia, the company said.
“Honda Australia is working closely with authorities to provide whatever assistance is required,” Honda said in a statement. The company is Takata’s largest customer, and all the deaths but one have happened in its vehicles.
Three other people in the Australian wreck, including a passenger in the CR-V and two people in the Toyota, were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life threatening, according to police.
Authorities in Australia and the U.S. have urged people to go to government or automaker websites to check if their vehicles have been recalled and to take them in for repairs as soon as possible.
Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.