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1st recorded Canadian fatality from airbag inflator rupture under investigation


Transport Canada says it is investigating the first recorded case in the country of a fatality involving a ruptured driver-side airbag inflator.

Authorities say the driver of a 2009 Hyundai Elantra in Newfoundland and Labrador involved in a two-vehicle collision was killed on July 8 when the airbag inflator exploded and fired metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment of the car.

“The incident was a low-speed collision, which was expected to be survivable,” a Transport Canada spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The ruptured inflator was manufactured by ARC Automotive Inc., a company based in Knoxville, Tenn., and is not related to recent Takata airbag inflator failures, Transport Canada said in a news release Thursday.

The cause of the ARC inflator rupture has not been determined, the federal government department said.

“Should a safety defect be found, owners will be notified,” Transport Canada said.

Two previous incidents involving ARC inflator ruptures occurred in the United States, both causing serious injuries.

Transport Canada said ARC is co-operating with investigators, and that Ottawa is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States on the issue. 

The Associated Press reported that about eight million inflators built by ARC are under scrutiny, mainly in older vehicles made by GM, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia. 

U.S. government investigators started looking at ARC inflators in July 2015, following reports that an Ohio woman was injured when her 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan crashed and the inflator ruptured. Separately, another person was reported injured in an inflator rupture involving a 2004 Kia Optima.

NHTSA said the Elantra involved in the crash in Newfoundland and Labrador had an ARC inflator made in China.

The probe of ARC inflators differs from the larger recall of 69 million inflators in the U.S. produced by Takata Corp. Several automakers in Canada have announced recalls of vehicles equipped with Takata inflators.

In the Takata case, explosive ammonium nitrate is used to inflate the airbags. However, over time the chemical can degrade, burn too quickly and blow up metal inflator cannisters.

Ammonium nitrate is also used in ARC inflators, but investigators are looking into whether a blocked vent can leave the gas with no place to go, leading to a pressure buildup and a rupture of the inflator assembly.

CBC | Business News

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