DETROIT (REUTERS) - Shards from a ruptured Takata-made air bag killed the driver of a Honda Accord after a traffic accident in Florida, according to the final autopsy report, the first official confirmation of shrapnel as a cause of death in the crash.
Blunt force injuries to the head and neck also contributed to the death of Hien Tran, 51, whose 2001 Honda was involved in an accident on Sept 29 in Orlando, according to the report, which was released by the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner's office late on Tuesday. She died on Oct 2.
Tran, whose family on Monday filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Takata and Honda, is one of five deaths - four in the United States - linked to faulty Takata air bag inflators that potentially can explode and spray shrapnel at vehicle occupants.
"It is my opinion that the injuries were caused solely by the collision and explosion of the air bag with her death a result of the penetrating injuries of the neck, as well as blunt force injuries to the head and neck," Dr Joshua Stephany, associate medical examiner, wrote in the conclusion.
On Wednesday, a Honda Motor Co spokesman confirmed "there was a rupture of the driver's air bag inflator" in the accident, saying "Honda is still evaluating the available evidence to understand the extent to which the rupture caused the fatal injuries suffered by Ms. Tran."
Around 16 million cars with Takata air bags have been recalled worldwide over the past six years, with more than 10 million of those in the US
The autopsy report noted that medical personnel initially said the penetrating injuries of Tran's neck were "inconsistent"with car accidents as the windows were intact and the driver was wearing her seat belt.
"Review of the scene photographs revealed plastic and metal fragments throughout the driver compartment, multiple tears to the air bag, as well as blood on the air bag," according to the autopsy report.
"Law enforcement also found fragments of loose metal still present within the deflated air bag."
Takata Corp spokesman Alby Berman said the firm "offers our deepest condolences to the family of Ms Tran. However, company policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation."
Executives from Takata and Honda, as well as officials from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Chrysler Group are scheduled to testify in front of a Senate panel in Congress on Thursday.
NHTSA on Tuesday said it has told Takata and five automakers to expand nationwide a regional US recall involving the potentially lethal air bags.