Suit claims young mother died after fake airbag exploded

A lawsuit filed in the US has claimed that a 22-year-old mother died in a car crash as a result of a counterfeit airbag that “detonated like a grenade.”

The suit filed by a representative of the family of Destiny Marie Byassee last week claims that the Chevy Malibu that she was driving had been fitted with a fake airbag supplied by Chinese company Jilin, and was fitted into the car by a mechanic at Jumbo Automotive in Hollywood, Florida, after the original airbag deployed in a previous crash.

The car was sold to Byassee by Mannheim Auctions, representing Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and reportedly also had a defective seatbelt that should have been repaired. The suit also claims it was in such poor condition after the first crash that it should not have been resold.

According to court documents seen by, the suit names Jilin, Jumbo Automotive and its mechanic Haim Levy, car dealer DriveTime, Cox Automotive doing business as Mannheim Auctions, and Elrac doing business as Enterprise Rent-A-Car

 After she had a collision, the airbag “shot metal and plastic shrapnel throughout the vehicle cabin” and “several fragments…struck Ms Byassee in the face, head, and neck, ultimately killing her,” the complaint notes.

It also claims Leby cut the wires to the seatbelt pretensioner so that the driver’s seatbelt would “appear normal, and appear to function as designed,” even though it should have been repaired or replaced.

The suit – which is asking for a jury trial – variously claims negligence, violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, and breach of implied warranty against the defendants.

There have been multiple reports of counterfeit or substandard airbag components being used to replace OEM items that can malfunction, placing people who have them installed at risk of serious injury or death.

Earlier this year, retired mechanic Mohammed Al-Abadi pleaded guilty in federal court to trafficking counterfeit airbags that were sourced from China and sold to unsuspecting automobile repair shops and individual customers.

He also admitted causing a dangerous good or forbidden explosive to be placed onto a commercial aircraft and is due to be sentenced next month.

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