Truck carrying Takata airbags propellant explodes following Texas accident, killing local resident

by Jim Orr

A truck carrying airbag components manufactured by Takata exploded last week following an accident in West Texas, killing a woman and injuring four others. More than 100 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbags—which contain the explosive chemical ammonium nitrate—have been recalled worldwide after they were linked to at least 14 deaths and more than 100 cases of serious injury due to accidental explosions.

Authorities say that the driver of the tractor trailer had trouble negotiating a curve while driving through Quemado, Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border. The truck was traveling from the Takata plant in Moses Lake, Washington to a warehouse operated by the company in Eagle Pass, Texas. After crashing near a house, the truck—which contained air bag detonators and blasting agents—exploded, causing a nearby home and a passing automobile to catch fire. The woman who was killed in the truck accident was inside the nearby house when it caught fire.

The explosion caused by the Takata truck accident damaged 10 nearby homes. Local media reported that rubble from the explosion and parts from the truck involved in the accident were found almost a mile from the spot where the crash occurred.

A Takata spokesperson says that the truck involved in the accident was carrying airbag propellant containing ammonium nitrate—the same chemical that has been linked to the accidental explosions involved in the airbag recall. The truck was also carrying airbag inflators that did not contain ammonium nitrate, the spokesperson said.

Authorities in the U.S. have recalled about 64 million vehicles containing Takata airbags due to a risk of accidental explosions. Officials say that the ammonium nitrate propellant that is used to inflate the recalled airbags is susceptible to degradation caused by temperature changes or moisture. This can cause the ammonium nitrate to become unstable, creating a risk of unintended explosions that can send metal fragments flying from the airbag, where they can injure or kill drivers or passengers. The Takata recall is the largest vehicle safety recall in U.S. history.

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