WASHINGTON -- American Honda on Friday confirmed a Takata airbag ruptured in the fatal crash of a 2002 Accord on Jan. 18 in Texas.
"Honda has communicated preliminary information collected to date about this crash to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)," the automaker's statement said. "The vehicle involved in this crash was included in a 2011 recall for the driver’s frontal airbag inflator, and our records indicate that the recall repair was never completed."
Takata Corp. airbags now have been linked to at least six deaths. Automakers have recalled 24 million cars with Takata airbags globally since 2008, according to Reuters estimates.
The driver of the Accord -- Carlos Solis IV, a 35-year-old father of two teenagers -- was killed following the crash in Houston in which a driver-side airbag inflator ruptured, according to Honda's statements the last two days.
Authorities have yet to determine the official cause of death.
“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family of the driver during this difficult time,” Honda said in a statement.
NHTSA’s Early Warning Reporting system accepts reports only for vehicles that fall within the past 10 model years, meaning Honda cannot include the fatal crash in its reports, the company said.
Honda has issued several different recalls over the last four years for Takata airbags.
Gordon Trowbridge, a spokesman for NHTSA, confirmed that Honda notified NHTSA of the crash and said the agency is gathering more information.
A December recall was initially limited to high-humidity regions, mostly along the Gulf of Mexico, and was among the many so-called regional recalls for Takata airbags conducted by several automakers that began last summer. Honda expanded the actions nationwide after NHTSA called the regional campaigns insufficient. Four other automakers followed suit.
In its statement, Honda urged owners of its vehicles to check www.recalls.honda.com and www.recalls.acura.com to see whether their vehicles are affected by a recall.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., discussed the latest crash on the Senate floor Thursday and said Takata documents provided as part of the Senate Commerce Committee’s investigation into the supplier indicate that the company has linked 64 injuries to ruptured airbags. Nelson is the top-ranking Democrat on the committee and chaired a hearing looking into the Takata defects last November, when Democrats controlled the Senate.
Nelson is backing legislation, along with Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., that would reward whistle-blowing auto company employees who report safety defects to the government.
Honda previously confirmed three deaths in the U.S. related to Takata bags, spokesman Chris Martin said. Two others, including the Texas incident, are under investigation. Another fatality in Malaysia has been linked to the air bags.
Florida is a hot spot for Takata incidents, with 18 of the total 64 injuries and one of the five deaths taking place there, Nelson said.
Executives from both Takata and Honda testified at a Nov. 20 Senate hearing discussing the air-bag recalls and fatalities. Nelson said at the time automakers should provide rental cars for models that can’t be immediately fixed because of “the fear that grips the public.”
Takata also expressed condolences over the Jan. 18 death.
“We are working in close collaboration with Honda to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the vehicle’s status at the time of the incident,” the company said in a statement. “Takata’s number one priority is the safety of the driving public.”
The Solis family sued Honda, Takata and the dealership on Jan. 27 in state court in Houston.
The accident stemmed from a “relatively minor collision resulting in minimal damage to both vehicles,” according to the lawsuit. The front airbag in the Accord deployed and the inflator exploded, sending shards of metal into his neck and he died at the scene, according to the lawsuit.
Solis’s family says in the lawsuit that the dealership should have checked to see if the vehicle was subject to a recall before it was sold.
“We’re continuing to investigate this matter but there is no evidence that this was anything else but an inflator rupture,” said Robert Ammons, attorney for Solis’s children.
Solis left two children, a 14-year-old boy and a 13-year- old girl.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.