Make us your home page

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 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.

Local victim of Takata airbag explosion comes forward as recall expands 06/01/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 9:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]