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The Face of the Honda Airbag Recall

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Oklahoma City, OKIf the Honda airbag recall has a face, it is that of 18-year-old Ashley Parham, who died in a car accident just four days after graduating from Carl Albert High School in Oklahoma City.

On May 27, 2009, Ashley went to pick up her brother from football practice. Guiding her 2001 Honda Accord sedan along the length of the Carl Albert field house parking lot, she failed to yield to another car and crashed.

When the airbag deployed, shards of metal exploded from the airbag mechanism and tore into the young driver. One shard penetrated her neck and another projectile entered the right side of her chest, according to the state medical examiner. The projectile was recovered from her chest at hospital.

"The airbag deployed, shards of metal exploded from the airbag mechanism, and that's what penetrated her neck and caused her fatal injury," said Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes.

No one else was injured in the crash.

The young woman is so far the only fatality linked to the Honda airbag recall, which expanded last week to encompass an additional 378,000 vehicles in the US and Canada. According to the 2/11/10 edition of the Oklahoman, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a potentially faulty airbag system in several Honda models has been linked to 11 injuries.

A Timeline

The airbag systems were installed primarily in 2001 and 2002 Accords, Civics, Odyssey minivans, CR-Vs and some Acura models. An initial recall of 4000 vehicles was rolled out in November of 2008, although Parham's Accord was not among the models listed. Two months after Parham's death, Honda expanded the recall to 440,000 vehicles, including the Accord.

The recall was further expanded last week.

The Oklahoman reported that the Parham family filed a lawsuit on August 6 in Oklahoma County District Court against Honda and Takata Corp. (the manufacturer of the seat belt and airbag system used in the car) as well as several of the companies' subsidiaries. A settlement of $5,000 was approved a day later. The money will be held in trust for Melton Parham Jr., the brother of the deceased, who witnessed his sister's death and, according to the lawsuit, was emotionally traumatized as a result.

Police did not pursue criminal charges. Both Honda and Takata denied fault.

It is not known if the Parham family pursued a lawsuit for the actual death of their daughter.


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