WASHINGTON -- Honda Motor Co. on Monday confirmed an 11th U.S. death involving one of its vehicles tied to a faulty Takata Corp. airbag inflator.
The Japanese automaker said the incident occurred in Florida in June 2016 when an individual was working on repairs on a 2001 Honda Accord and the airbag ruptured. At least 17 deaths and 180 injuries worldwide are now tied to the defect that prompted the largest ever auto safety recall and led Takata to file for bankruptcy protection last month.
Takata inflators can explode with excessive force, unleashing metal shrapnel inside cars and trucks.
The Honda Accord was among a group of more than 300,000 unrepaired recalled Honda vehicles equipped with inflators with a substantial risk of rupturing. Honda said the vehicle's registered owners had received at least 12 recall notices but never got recommended repairs.
The individual working on the vehicle in Hialeah, Fla., died a day after sustaining injuries when the airbag deployed.
"The rupture occurred while an individual, who was not the vehicle owner, was attempting to perform unknown repairs inside the vehicle using a hammer while the ignition switch was in the 'on' position," Honda's statement said. "This triggered activation of the airbag inflator, which ruptured during deployment of the airbag."
"It is difficult to determine whether the cause of death in this incident was the inflator rupture, or an interaction of the hammer with the deploying airbag."
Last year, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged owners to stop driving the "unsafe" cars until they were fixed. NHTSA said 2001-2003 model Honda and Acura vehicles have as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous airbag inflator rupture in a crash.
Of the deaths linked to Takata's inflators, 16 took place in Honda vehicles since May 2009, including five in Malaysia using a different type of Takata inflator, while one death occurred in a Ford Motor Co. vehicle in South Carolina in December 2015.
Scott Caudill, COO of TK Holdings, Takata's U.S. unit, said in a court affidavit last month in its bankruptcy filing that the company "faces insurmountable claims" relating to the recalls and owes billions of dollars to automakers.
He disclosed that Takata has recalled, or expects to recall, by 2019 about 125 million vehicles worldwide, including more than 60 million in the United States.
Separately, a U.S. judge in Detroit on Monday said he planned to name law professor Eric D. Green to oversee $975 million in compensation funds for Takata airbag victims and automakers.
Green, who teaches at Harvard, has served as a mediator in many major cases, including the U.S. Microsoft antitrust case, and currently serves as a Justice Department monitor overseeing the implementation of billions of dollars in consumer relief linked to settlements with banks stemming from the 2007-2009 financial crisis.