Honda did not identify the deceased, but said the individual was on June 18, 2016, “attempting to perform unknown repairs inside the vehicle using a hammer while the ignition switch was in the ‘on’ position. This triggered activation of the airbag inflator, which ruptured during deployment of the airbag.”
The OEM only recently found out about the incident, according to the AP. Kuffo died June 19, according to Honda.
The Associated Press quoted Honda spokesman Chris Martin as having “noted that there is a deceleration sensor that activates the air bags mounted on the wall between the engine and passenger compartment.”
Honda said it might be impossible to determine what actually triggered the airbag.
“It is difficult to determine whether the cause of death in this incident was the inflator rupture, or an interaction of the hammer with the deploying airbag,” Honda wrote Monday. “While the absolute cause of death may never be fully determined, Honda now considers this to be the 11th confirmed fatality in its vehicles related to Takata airbag inflator ruptures in the U.S.”
Kuffo didn’t own the car, according to Honda. The OEM noted that 12 recall notices were sent since 2009 to the Accord’s registered owners. The Accord was among the 2001-03 Honda and Acura models determined to be at higher risk because of “so-called ‘Alpha’ inflators.”
“Our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed on this vehicle,” the OEM wrote.
While the incident doesn’t seem to have occurred in a professional repair setting, it should be a reminder for all shops: Follow OEM guidelines not just to protect the vehicle owner, but the technician as well. Honda even made a similar point to the AP:
Honda says its service procedures recommend disconnecting the battery when working on the air bag system. Owners can go online and subscribe to Honda service manuals and find out proper procedures for many repairs. It costs about $10 per day, Martin said.
Honda stressed Monday that it has enough replacement inflators to fix every Honda and Acura with a recalled Takata airbag (particularly the Alphas) — for free. It urged customers to schedule a dealer repair as soon as possible and anyone with concerns to call Honda at 888-234-2138.