‘His Death Could Have Been Avoided': S.C. Family Sues Ford, Takata After Death Linked to Airbag

Ann Knight is still struggling to cope with the death of her husband days before Christmas, and with the knowledge that the air bag meant to save his life is what federal regulators say killed him.

"He was my best friend. So to lose him like this ... is very heartbreaking," Ann Knight told News4 in Washington.

"This is crazy," she said. "Why didn't they contact us? This could have been prevented. His death could have been prevented."

Joel Knight, 52, was driving home from work three days before Christmas in Kershaw, South Carolina, when he struck a cow in the road. His air bag deployed, rupturing with such force investigators say a large metal shard killed him.

A preliminary autopsy report obtained by News 4 says the cause of Knight's death was a "fatal projectile of the neck probably from the air bag."

The air bags in Knight's 2006 Ford Ranger were manufactured by Takata Corp. of Japan. Knight was the 10th person killed by a Takata air bag, federal regulators say; more than 100 people are believed to have been hurt.

As a result, carmakers have recalled more than 20 million cars and trucks nationwide. Knight's car had been recalled for the passenger side air bag, but not the driver’s side air bag -- until this Monday, when Ford expanded its recall to include the vehicles with the same model driver’s side air bags as the one in Knight's truck.


Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information

Folger Shakesperare Library reopens

Crash on I-495 near Tysons Corner causing delays

The Knight family has sued Ford and Takata, saying they knew about a 2014 death in Malaysia involving the same air bag model found in Knight's Ford Ranger. The lawsuit claims the Malaysia death lead to an earlier recall in 61 countries.

"When the propellant exploded a single piece of steel launched out of the canister like a bullet and entered his spine and severed his spinal cord," said Drew Creech, the Knight family's attorney.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that the government ran tests on these particular inflators and they never failed.

Takata issued a statement, which said in part:

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the driver's family. We are cooperating fully with regulators ... to take aggressive action to advance vehicle safety."

Knight's family say that statement is too little, too late.

"I think about it everyday, every minute of the day," said Jason Knight, Joel Knight's son. "If this air bag was not in my Dad's truck, my Dad would still be here."

"He was my best friend, he was very loving," said Ann Knight, who then began to cry.

"He's been driving [Ford] vehicles for over 20 years, and you didn't care," Ann Knight said. "So my thing is ... why should I care what happens to your company?

"I just thought they should have to pay for what they've done wrong," she said.

To see if your car is affected by the Takata air bag recall, click here to see the NTSB list.

Contact Us