[WASHINGTON, DC] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA) called on the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the explosion and crash of a truck carrying Takata airbag parts, including ammonium nitrate. This compound, which is also used in agricultural fertilizers and as an explosive in construction and mining industries, can explode violently if it comes into contact with an open flame or other ignition sources. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also confirmed that ammonium nitrate is the root cause of the Takata airbag defect that has led to the largest recall in U.S. automotive history because of its tendency to become unstable when exposed to moisture. The detonation, which took place near Quemado, Texas, killed one and injured four others.
“We already know Takata has endangered millions behind the wheel – the recent tragedy in Texas raises questions about how many millions more are in harm’s way because of Takata’s practices transporting its hazardous product,” the Senators said. “Takata has a terrible track record of cutting corners to put profits before safety, creating tragic consequences for drivers and families, and then lying to federal regulators. The National Transportation Safety Board must investigate this incident and determine whether this company took appropriate precautions, or if it is just one more example of its reckless behavior. We also seek answers on what steps must be taken to ensure other towns and communities aren’t endangered by the shipment of ammonium nitrate on our highways. The independent expertise of the NTSB is uniquely tasked with looking at these wide-ranging problems, and we urge the agency to take immediate action.”
The Senators first expressed concerns with NHTSA’s limited recalls and testing of Takata airbags in October 2014, first called on Takata to recall all vehicles with ammonium nitrate-based airbags in August 2015, and subsequently also expressed serious concern about the pace of Takata recalls and repairs.
In February of this year, Blumenthal and Markey sent a letter urging President Obama to recall every vehicle with airbags using ammonium nitrate as their propellant, and to use “every tool at his disposal” to accelerate the repair of all vehicles with potentially-lethal Takata airbags. In May, the Senators asked NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind to make publicly available the make, model, and year of all vehicles that contain Takata airbags that use an ammonium nitrate propellant. In July, they called on Honda to immediately issue a “do not drive” order to owners vehicles with these dangerous air bags.