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Autopsy: Air Bag Injuries Killed FL Woman

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

 An Orlando woman died from injuries to her neck and head caused by a car collision and an exploding air bag, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday.

Plastic and metal fragments were scattered throughout the driver's side of Hien Tran's 2001 Honda Accord, and detectives found fragments of loose metal still in the deflated air bag, according to the report. The air bag had multiple tears and was bloodied.

Multiple automakers have recalled vehicles in the U.S. over the past two years to repair air bag inflators made by Takata Corp., a Tokyo-based supplier of seat belts, air bags, steering wheels and other auto parts. Tran's Accord was among the models being recalled.

Just weeks after Tran's death, the U.S. government issued an urgent plea to more than 4.7 million people to get the air bags in their cars fixed, amid concern that a defect in the devices can possibly kill or injure the driver or passengers. The inflators can send metal fragments into the passenger compartment.

On Tuesday, the government went a step further, demanded that the auto industry recall millions of additional cars equipped with faulty air bags. The action by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers driver's side air bags equipped with inflators made by Takata.

The Florida Highway Patrol still hasn't ruled on a cause of death in Tran's case, and investigators are using an air bag expert as part of their probe.

Emergency responders to the accident scene last month initially believed Tran's injuries were inconsistent with a car accident since the windows were intact and Tran still had on her seatbelt. But Associate Medical Examiner Joshu Stephany determined in the autopsy report that the 51-year-old Tran's death was an accident and that there was no evidence of foul play.

Tran's neck had burnt skin and two 2-centimeter, penetrating wounds, according to the autopsy report. Her jugular vein and smaller, branching veins were cut under the wounds as were several muscles, and her trachea and esophagus also were cut, the report said. Her chin, lip and jaw also were bruised.