Car death raises issue of faulty airbags

Claims last week that a faulty airbag may have caused a young man’s death has raised questions over who has the responsibility of informing car owners about parts that have been recalled and need to be changed for safety reasons.

The issue came to light after the mother of Kyriacos Oxynos, 24, spoke to the media about a police report filed about her son’s death.

According to the police report, Oxynos, who died in a car crash in January, may have been killed by a faulty Takata airbag, which when it was released sent pieces of metal flying.

Takata airbags had been recalled in previous years, with one announcement on the website of the importer of the car Oxynos was driving showing the recall dated as far back as 2010. Several makes of cars used Takata airbags.

The reason for the recall was that when the airbags are exposed to high heat or humidity and they are released, there is a chance that they will explode, shooting out the airbag’s metal inflator and causing further injuries and possibly fatalities.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, sources close to Oxynos’ death said: “The authorities from the first moment did an excellent job.”

Currently, the police report surrounding his death is now in the hands of the attorney-general’s office for further examination.

Maria Loui, Oxynos’ mother, told local media that she had come across the reports of defective airbags made by Japanese manufacturer Takata. According to her findings, millions of vehicles with Takata airbags were recalled after it was determined they have contributed to a number of serious injuries and deaths.

Despite this, she said that the owners of the car her son was driving – his grandmother and father – were not aware of the defective airbags and claimed they had not been notified about them.

In addition, there was another car accident that seriously injured a man back in 2018, involving the Takata airbag, leading to a series of questions as to why no one had been informed, or why all the models of vehicles with Takata airbags had not been recalled.

The Cyprus Mail contacted the transport ministry, under whose remit the department of motor vehicles lies, to find out why recalls did not happen sooner, and the procedures for a recall.

According to the transport ministry, the car distributor or importer – whether it’s a used or new car – is the first entity responsible for informing the car owner of a recall.

The transport ministry said that the distributor informs the department of motor vehicles (TOM) about the recall and the vehicles affected, recording, at a minimum, the make and model of the vehicle as well as the range of the affected vehicle identification number (VIN).

TOM then provides the details of the vehicle owner free of charge, and the importer/dealer/distributor is supposed to inform the registered owners of the vehicles that are in the recall process to present them for the necessary technical work.

If the vehicle owners, despite repeated updates received from the dealer, do not present the vehicles for the necessary repair, then the dealers must register the recall in an application made available to them by TOM with the details of the affected vehicles.

The ministry said that upon registration of the vehicles, the application automatically sends a message (SMS) to the registered owner from TOM asking them to present their vehicle for recall repair, provided the mobile number is registered. At the same time, the failure to perform a periodic technical check is automatically registered in the computerised system until the implementation of the recall repair.

“Owners [of recall vehicles] are informed responsibly by the distributor, in the manner they [the distributors] see fit, be it a letter or as registered mail,” the ministry told the Cyprus Mail.

However, the transport ministry added that people can also be informed about vehicle recalls on the EU Safety Gate The website is in English, but the TOM link is on their Greek website.

There, any recalls on any motor vehicles can be searched for. The results registered bring up can bring up recalls from any EU member state.

On the airbag issue, the transport ministry said: “Recalls for the airbag problem began in early 2010 and continue to this day.”

The procedure is carried out under the responsibility of the manufacturing company at a time that it decides according to the data it has at its disposal.

“Therefore, recalls are made gradually depending on the information given by the manufacturing company and it is impossible to do it en masse due to the absence of the necessary information,” the ministry said.

Commenting on how the system might change in the future not to have all the onus on vehicle distributors, the ministry said with the implementation of TOM’s new information system, if the distributors inform the department accordingly, the vehicle owners will be able to be informed directly by the department.

The ministry said that TOM monitors the implementation of the recalls. According to the legislation, the responsibility for recalls rests with the manufacturer company, the distribution companies and the car importers.