Takata air bags may have caused 2 more deaths in Malaysia

DETROIT – Two people in Malaysia have died in recent traffic crashes in which Takata air bag inflators exploded with too much force, but authorities have yet to determine the exact cause of either death.

Both crashes involved driver’s air bag inflators in older Honda City small cars, according to a statement released Wednesday by Honda.

The automaker says cars in both crashes were under recall to fix faulty Takata inflators, but repairs had not been made.

Both cars had inflators that the company does not use in the U.S. or Canada, but are used in other countries and largely in Asia, the company said.

Takata inflators can blow apart a metal canister, sending shrapnel into drivers and passengers. At least 11 people have died worldwide and over 100 have been hurt. If the inflators caused both recent deaths in Malaysia, the death toll would rise to 13.

The first of the recent Malaysian crashes happened April 16 in Sabah state, according to Honda. A driver’s inflator on a 2006 Honda City ruptured in the crash. The car was part of recall announced on May 21. The second crash happened May 1 and involved a 2003 Honda City. That car was recalled on Dec. 8, 2014.

In both cases, Honda officials inspected the cars with the Royal Malaysia Police and determined that the driver’s inflator had ruptured, according to Honda. Representatives of the Royal Malaysia Police could not be reached by The Associated Press late Wednesday.

Honda said it is communicating with the drivers’ families and out of respect, would not provide further information about the crash victims. Both Honda and Takata offered condolences to the families, and Takata said it is working with Honda to determine the facts of the crashes.

If authorities determine that the inflators caused the two recent deaths, they would be the second and third to occur in Malaysia. On July 27, 2014, a ruptured Takata inflator in a 2003 Honda City killed Law Suk Leh of Sibu, Malaysia.

News of the deaths comes just hours before U.S. authorities will announce that the size of the Takata recall in the U.S. will more than double. But a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the announcement has nothing to do with the crashes in Malaysia.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind is scheduled to hold a news conference at Wednesday afternoon to make the announcement. Three people briefed on the matter say the agency is likely to add more than 35 million inflators to the recall, which already is the largest automotive recall in U.S. history at 28.8 million inflators. The people requested anonymity because the official announcement has not yet been made.