Truck Carrying Takata Air Bag Inflators Explodes in U.S., Killing One

A truck that was transporting Takata Corp. air bag inflators and propellants at the center of a global recall exploded in Texas last week, killing one woman and injuring four other people, the auto parts supplier said on Monday.

The truck, operated by a subcontractor, was traveling to a Takata warehouse in Eagle Pass, Texas, early on Aug. 22 when an accident occurred, causing an explosion that incinerated a nearby home, local media reports said.

The truck “was involved in an accident,” Takata said in a statement on Monday. “According to preliminary reports, the accident caused a fire, which led to an explosion.”

Texas state officials did not immediately return calls for comment early on Monday.

A Takata spokesman in Tokyo said earlier on Monday the blast killed one woman and that the truck was carrying air bag inflators and propellants containing ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical compound. These bags have in the past exploded and been linked to the deaths of at least 14 people, triggering the biggest recall in the global auto industry.

The force of the explosion damaged about 10 nearby homes, breaking windows and dislodging doors from their hinges, local media reports said, with rubble and truck parts found almost a mile away from the site of the blast.

Takata has a warehouse in Eagle Pass, which is near the Mexico-U.S. border, that stocks inflators manufactured in Monclova in Mexico. That plant has been confirmed as one of the sources of the company’s defective air bags.

Local media reports said the driver of the truck was a 20-year-old man who, along with a passenger, were able to escape from the truck before it exploded. However, a 69-year-old woman was killed when the blast occurred in front of her home, the reports said.

A two-day search was conducted to find the woman, but the search was called off after she was identified by dental records, local media reported.

More than 100 million vehicles worldwide have been slated for recall to replace Takata inflators, which in addition to the deaths, are linked to more than 150 injuries, mostly in the United States and involving Honda Motor Co. Ltd. cars.

Prolonged exposure of the defective Takata inflators to hot conditions has been found to cause air bags to explode with excessive force, spraying shrapnel into passenger compartments.

(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Bernadette Baum)

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