Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

Local victim of Takata airbag explosion comes forward as recall expands

TAMPA — On a Thursday afternoon in April, Tiffany Vu was on her way to the gym on U.S. 301 when the driver in front of her stopped suddenly.

She swerved, clipping the back bumper of the other vehicle with her 2004 Honda Accord. It should have been a minor fender bender. Instead, the 27-year old medical billing specialist was rushed to the hospital, where paramedics tried to remove shards of metal that embedded in her arm, chest and hand after her airbag exploded.

Vu is described by her attorney as the first local victim to come forward in what has grown into the largest automotive recall in the country's history, impacting an estimated one in four vehicles. Worldwide, at least 11 people have died and 100 have been injured by airbags made by Japan-based Takata Corp.

"My hand was gushing (blood) like a water fountain," Vu told reporters at a press conference held Wednesday afternoon by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in Tampa.

A report released Wednesday by the Senate showed the airbag crisis extends beyond used cars, disclosing that at least four automakers are selling new vehicles equipped with the potentially deadly Takata airbag inflators, like the one in Vu's car. Nelson is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

"This is something that was supposed to protect her," Nelson, a Democrat, said of the airbag.

Investigators have found the Takata airbag inflator is prone to rupture, presenting a potential danger to drivers and passengers.

So far, 17 car and truck companies are recalling as many as 69 million Takata inflators in the U.S. alone.

Florida is listed with a handful of other states as being a "priority region" by the NHTSA because older vehicles exposed to hot and humid conditions are considered more susceptible to failure.

Concerned drivers can enter their vehicle identification number into NHTSA.gov to see if their vehicle falls under the recall.

"This is a continuing saga," Nelson said. "It is absolutely ridiculous that the American consumer can buy a new car today and not know that it will be recalled in two years."

Some Fiat Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Volkswagen vehicles from the 2016 and 2017 model years are equipped with the Takata parts.

Mitsubishi and Volkswagen identified the new models that have potentially defective Takata inflators. They include the 2016 Volkswagen CC, 2016 Audi TT, 2017 Audi R8, and the 2016 and 2017 Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Toyota and Fiat Chrysler did not specify models.

According to the report, Toyota said it expects to make about 175,000 unspecified vehicles with defective Takata inflators from March 2016 to July 2017.

Fiat Chrysler has only one new model with the inflators, which spokesman Eric Mayne declined to identify. "These vehicles are not currently subject to recall. They meet or exceed all applicable safety requirements," Mayne said in an email.

The report says recall completion rates remain low. As of March, Honda led with almost 40 percent of inflators replaced, while Daimler Vans had completed only 0.4 percent.

Vu is a nationally ranked weightlifter who hopes to go to the Olympics in 2020. The injury has set back her training, she said, especially since she still has a piece of metal in her hand that "sends shooting pain up my arm" during certain exercises.

She said she plans to sue Honda and Takata.

Times senior news researcher John Martin contributed to this report, which contains information from the Associated Press. Contact Alli Knothe at [email protected] Follow @KnotheA.

Comments
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Published: 06/15/18
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Filling in a hole that was left by The Iron Yard’s exodus last year, a new computer coding school will open its doors to its first class in downtown St. Petersburg on July 23.The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate thro...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates, has bought Aventine at Boyton Beach, a 216-unit apartment community, for $43 million.Aventine, garden-style apartments that are 95 percent occupied, will be renovated and renamed "Verona at Boynton Beach."It i...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

The national battle between Big Beer and local craft breweries is playing out on the shelves of your neighborhood Publix — and some favorite Florida brewmakers are losing.The guild that represents Florida brewers says at least 12 small breweries have...
Published: 06/15/18
Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Memorial Day weekend was supposed to bring three productive days of home improvement for Will Mega, a dean at a North Philadelphia charter school.He’d go to two Lowe’s locations near his home in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood for a grill and ...
Published: 06/15/18
McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

NEW YORK — McDonald’s said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.The burger chain and other fast-food comp...
Published: 06/15/18
Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

ST. PETERSBURG --- Among topics that stir passionate interest, two that rank high are medical marijuana and craft beers.A group of Tampa Bay entrepreneurs has ambitious plans to profit from both.They are leasing a vast warehouse space in St. Petersbu...
Published: 06/15/18