• Kyodo

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Safety officials at Takata Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. will be referred to prosecutors on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in injury after a recalled air bag inflator in a Nissan vehicle ruptured in a collision in 2015, an investigative source said.

The police suspect that the Takata official did not follow proper recall procedure and that the Nissan official failed to instruct Nissan dealerships to disable the recalled inflators, the source said Wednesday of the rare police move to pursue criminal charges related to a vehicle malfunction.

A woman in her 60s sustained face and arm injuries when an X-Trail sport utility vehicle driven by her husband rear-ended a truck in Ito, Shizuoka Prefecture, in October 2015. The impact triggered an abnormal rupture in the air bag inflator on the passenger side.

At least 15 people have died in accidents involving faulty Takata air bag inflators in the United States, Malaysia and elsewhere. In Japan, 16 cases of abnormal ruptures have been reported since 2011, along with two injuries, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry said.

Probes suggest that improperly welded inflator casings are allowing moisture to come into contact with a volatile propellent, raising the risk of rupture.

In May 2015, Nissan recalled eight models including X-Trails made between 2004 and 2007 following reports of fatal accidents involving Takata inflators.

The vehicle in the Shizuoka collision was subject to the recall and taken to a dealership two months before the accident. The dealership, which did not have enough replacement parts at the time, put the vehicle on a waiting list, saying there was no immediate risk of rupture as long as the inflator was airtight.

The police suspect the Nissan official told dealerships in May 2015 that recalled inflators did not need to be replaced immediately if they were airtight.

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