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Takata, Nissan officials referred to prosecutors over 2015 air bag incident

Kyodo

Police referred Takata Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. safety management officials to prosecutors on Friday on suspicion of professional negligence, in relation to a ruptured Takata air bag inflator that caused an injury in a 2015 car accident involving a Nissan vehicle.

Shizuoka police suspect the Takata employee did not notify Nissan that the air bag inflator may rupture, while the Nissan official allegedly failed to instruct Nissan dealers to disable the recalled air bag.

It is the first time in Japan that a Takata or carmaker employee has been referred to prosecutors over a case involving a defective air bag, according to the prefectural police. Both of the officials involved are male and in their 50s.

The accident occurred on Oct. 28, 2015, in the hot spring resort of Ito, where a 63-year-old woman sustained injuries to her face and arm when an X-Trail sport utility model driven by her husband rear-ended a truck and then crashed into a guardrail.

On the passenger’s side, where the woman was sitting, the inflator ruptured, spraying metal fragments into the vehicle’s cabin and causing multiple injuries, including a broken thumb and a perforated eardrum.

Takata said that substandard welding of inflator castings allowed moisture to come into contact with a volatile chemical in the device, raising the risk of rupture.

At least 15 people have died in accidents involving Takata air bag inflators in the United States and other countries.

There have been 16 cases in Japan, including two where injuries were reported, since records began to be kept in 2011, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Automobile industry analysts say the number of vehicle recalls prompted by faulty Takata air bags would eventually exceed 100 million units globally.

Investigators said the husband of the woman injured in the accident brought his X-Trail to a Nissan dealership in August 2015, eight months after the model was recalled.

The dealership did not disable its air bags as the Nissan official at the time allowed X-Trail owners to continue driving until necessary parts for repair become available, except for faulty gas generator housings.

“We refrain from commenting as investigations are ongoing,” said a Nissan spokesman.