Airbag Malfunction That Killed OK Teen Not Under Recall In State

Tuesday, October 21st 2014, 6:02 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

An airbag malfunction that's responsible for the death of a Midwest City teenager is now at the center of an urgent safety warning for drivers.

The US government says the owners of 4.7 million vehicles need get the problems repaired immediately. But even though the malfunction is responsible for a death here in Oklahoma, our state isn't part of the most recent recall.

Back in May 2009, just days after her graduation from Carl Albert High School, Ashley Parham was killed when she got into a minor accident in the school parking lot and the airbag deployed, sending metal pieces of shrapnel into her neck.

“It was just like a freak accident. You didn't know how to react to that,” said Parham's friend Megan Cox shortly after her death.

The airbags were manufactured by Takata and the malfunction is now linked to four deaths, all in Honda cars, across the country. Ashley was driving a Honda Accord.

Documents filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show Honda first learned about the exploding airbags in 2004. The recalls didn't start until 2008. Ashley's car wasn't under recall at the time of the accident, but since then, nine carmakers have issued recalls and on Monday, Toyota recalled nearly 250,000 airbags.

But as in previous recalls, the fixes will only be made in warm weather climates, where Takata believes high humidity makes the explosions more likely.

Clarence Ditlow is the head of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety and says the reason is money.

“It's a frustration to us,” said Ditlow. “How in the world can you approve a geographic recall the doesn't include the two states where people have been killed?”

Ditlow estimates there are 20 to 25 million cars in the U.S. alone that are equipped with the faulty air bags.