By Tom Krisher, AP Auto Writer
DETROIT (AP) – Ford is telling owners of about 2,900 Ranger small pickup trucks not to drive them after finding out that an exploding Takata air bag inflator killed a driver in West Virginia.
Steve Mollohan, 56, of the Hedgesville, West Virginia, area died July 1 in nearby Martinsburg, about 80 miles northeast of Washington, D.C., according to a Pittsburgh-based lawyer for the firm representing the family, Rob Peirce III.
Ford said it was notified of the accident in December. After some investigation, the company determined that the truck’s inflator was made on the same day as one that exploded and killed a South Carolina man driving a Ranger in 2015.
Ford is now issuing an urgent new recall in the U.S. and Canada for Rangers with inflators made on that day because of the immediate danger they pose.
“We take this matter very seriously and are advising owners of these specific 2006 Ford Rangers to stop driving their vehicles so dealers can make repairs immediately,” Ford said in a statement Thursday.
Ford dealers will repair the trucks at owners’ homes or tow them in for work, spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said. The company also will offer loaner vehicles.
“It’s critical that this message reaches all affected owners,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement. “It is extremely important that all high-risk air bags are tracked down and replaced immediately.”
Ford said it was notified of Mollohan’s death Dec. 22, and the company inspected the vehicle Dec. 27. It is the second death involving a Ranger and the 21st worldwide caused by Takata inflators.
The inflators, which use ammonium nitrate as a propellant, can explode with too much force, blowing apart a metal canister and spewing shrapnel. The problem touched off the largest string of auto recalls in U.S. history and forced Takata into bankruptcy. More than 180 people have been injured.
Weigandt said she didn’t know if there was a manufacturing problem on the day the inflators were made.
But Sean Kane, president of Safety Research and Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts firm that does auto testing for plaintiffs’ lawyers and other clients, said a manufacturing problem is likely. “My suspicion is they found something very specific to that day that exacerbated an already bad situation,” he said.
In January of 2016, Ford recalled about 391,000 Rangers in the U.S. and Canada from the 2004 to 2006 model years to…