The Face Behind the Airbag Deaths That Caused the World’s Biggest Recall

Japanese auto supplier Takata is responsible for the deadliest air bag crisis that ballooned into the largest recall in U.S. History. In 2016, the company agreed in a deal with auto-safety regulators to recall over 60 million air bag inflators. The person responsible for the massive recall was 18-year-old Ashley Parham. In 2009, just days after graduating from high school, she was on her way to pick up her brother from football practice in her 2001 Honda Accord. She was wearing her seat belt and wasn’t speeding as she drove around the parking lot looking for a space. She inadvertently bumped another car, causing the air bag to inflate. As it did, it threw metal pieces with such force that one hit Ashley’s neck, slicing open her carotid artery and causing her to bleed to death. Her injuries were so catastrophic that doctors who treated her initially thought she might have been shot. In the nine years that followed, 22 other people died and 230 were injured in incidents linked to the Takata airbags. An investigation revealed that the defective air bags were at risk of rupturing violently in a collision, hurling fiery shrapnel into drivers and passengers. Takata agreed to replace the inflators in five phases beginning in 2018 and extending through the end of 2019. The company also agreed to $1 billion for failing to promptly fix the vehicles or report the defect.