Widow: 'They are just as bad as serial killers' after husband's death sparks airbag recall

Local man's death sparks massive recall
Ann Knight (Michael Clark | WBTV)
Ann Knight (Michael Clark | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A Charlotte area man's death is one of the eleven worldwide linked to defective airbag inflators and his widow worries the safety devices aren't being 'fixed fast enough.'

Between 35-40 million Takata airbag inflators were recalled as part of an expanded recall that already included nearly 30 million airbags, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Joel Knight lived in Lancaster County with his family before he was killed in a car wreck on December 22, 2015.

Knight's widow, Ann Knight misses her other half every day; the couple was together for 15 years, that she says should have been going on 16.

"I wish you wouldn't have went to work that night, I would love to have you back," Knight said.

Investigators said Knight was driving his Ford Ranger pickup when it struck a cow in the road. Knight's airbag deployed, but Knight died after the coroner said a piece of metal shrapnel pierced through his body and caused him to bleed out.

"The officers told us, it was, he should have walked away," Knight recalled.

RELATED: Death of Lancaster man sparks national auto part recall

After his death, the NHTSA issued a recall on 5 million Takata airbag inflators.

"It still hurts to know that something that should be saving your life is what caused your death," said Ann Knight, Joel Knight's widow.

Since that time, the recall has expanded to include millions of other inflators in 22 car brands. After the announcement, Ann Knight got a recall letter for her husband's vehicle.

"Because he died is the reason you had to do a recall on 5 million vehicles and you send me a letter to tell me there's a recall on the driver's side of his truck? Well you're a little too doggone late," Knight said.

A Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee has been investigating Takata airbag inflators.

In a February addendum to a 2015 report, the minority committee alleged that "…emails and documents reviewed by committee minority staff reveal a culture within Takata that at a minimum, did not prioritize the safety of its products, and perhaps operated with an utter disregard for safety. Numerous internal documents and emails reference the widespread manipulation of inflator test results…"

Takata has denied claims that it manipulated data relating to the airbag inflator models in question. Knight has filed a lawsuit against Takata and Ford.

WBTV asked Knight for her reaction when she saw the report.

"When you see that in a congressional report? I get even angrier, and I just, like, you shouldn't' even have a business, if you can't take care of this," Knight said.

Both companies have denied responsibility for Knight's death, but have issued condolences and said they are cooperating with the federal investigation.

In the response to Knight's lawsuit, Ford and Takata have denied most of the claims.

With millions of airbag inflators included in the recall, Ann Knight is encouraging everyone to check what is inside their vehicle.

Takata is one of the largest airbag manufacturers in the United States. Certain inflator models that use ammonium nitrate are believed to be linked to 10 deaths worldwide, according to NHTSA.

Committee reports note that after reported problems, recalls were slow. That's why Knight is sharing her story - she doesn't want it to too late for another family.

"I don't want anyone to go through what we've been through, this is horrible, just an airbag," Knight said.

The federal investigation continues into Takata. The company is phasing out the affected inflators. Knight believes someone should be held accountable.

"They need to go to jail for what they've done, they're as bad as being a serial killer," said Knight.

Knight said often tells strangers about the recall, and encourages them to look and see if their vehicle is a part of the recall.

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