A truck hauling Takata airbag inflators filled with a volatile chemical compound exploded last week in a Texas border town, killing one woman and injuring four others.
A subcontractor of the Tokyo-based airbag manufacturer was reportedly traveling between Takata’s airbag factory in Monclova, Mexico, and a company warehouse in Eagle Pass, Texas, with a load of airbag inflators and propellants when it flipped over and exploded. The accident happened Aug. 22 in the Texas border town of Quemado, about 140 miles south of San Antonio.
The explosion leveled a house, killing a woman identified by the News Gram of Eagle Pass as Lucila Robles. Few signs of Ms. Robles’ home remained except for the charred skeleton of her vehicle. The blast sent debris up to two miles from the crash site.
Sheriff Tom Schmerber told the Eagle Pass news Gram on Friday that cleanup was about complete, but his department was still receiving reports of damages.
Fearing components of the explosive airbags may be strewn about town, Takata officials were in Quemado last week to meet with residents and advise them to report any suspicious items or debris so authorities could dispose of it properly.
Takata confirmed that the truck involved in the accident was carrying airbag inflators containing ammonium nitrate, a volatile chemical compound that acts as a propellant to inflate the devices. Takata has recalled more than 100 million of its airbag inflators worldwide, including 69 million in the U.S. The defective mechanisms are blamed for at least 13 deaths worldwide – 10 in the U.S. and three in Malaysia.
All but one of the U.S. fatalities have occurred in Honda vehicles, but the massive recall affects airbags made by more than a dozen auto manufacturers.
The compound is sensitive to heat and humidity, which can cause it to degrade and inflate the airbag with excessive force or explode like a bomb, blasting metal fragments of the container toward car occupants. The defective Takata airbags often explode even in fender benders and other minor accidents.