CINCINNATI (AP) — Federal regulators received nearly 180 seating complaints about Honda Odyssey minivans over the years, according to a newspaper’s investigation after a teenage boy died trapped in one such van.
A coroner said 16-year-old Kyle Plush, of Cincinnati, died April 10 of asphyxiation because his chest was being compressed. It’s suspected the 2004 minivan’s rear, third-row seat flipped over and pinned him as he reached into the back.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported its investigation shows that a quarter of Odyssey seating complaints were over stability and that one of five stability cases involved problems with third-row seats.
More than a dozen warnings about the Odyssey’s third-row seating for models made between 1999 and 2012 were found by the newspaper. Some complaints said seats were loose, rusting or wouldn’t latch; others noted instances when heavy seats suddenly slammed down or flipped out of place.
The Enquirer also reports it obtained documents showing local investigators inspecting the minivan indicated that they had difficulty getting the rear seat to latch in place and that it would “rotate freely” after appearing to be locked.
Honda said in an emailed statement Wednesday that it hasn’t received any direct claims of fatal injuries from “interaction with third-row seats” in 1999-2004 Odysseys.
Honda spokesman Chris Martin said that the automaker has requested permission to inspect the Plush vehicle but hasn’t received it and doesn’t have any specific information “from which to definitively determine what occurred in this incident.”
Martin also said there were no seat-related recalls of the 2004 Honda Odyssey in the United States.
Honda last year recalled some 900,000 later-model Odysseys because of concerns about second-row seats tipping forward if not latched properly.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told The Enquirer that it worked closely with local authorities and Honda to “understand what happened” in the Cincinnati death.
“Based on the available information, including internal data analysis, the agency has not found evidence of a vehicle safety defect trend,” the agency said.
The NHTSA said part of its review included past Odyssey complaints and it would “continue to monitor complaints” and “take further steps as appropriate.”
The agency didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to an Associated Press message seeking further comment.
The teen’s father found his son dead nearly six hours after the first of Kyle’s two 911 calls seeking help. Two officers sent in response to the student’s first 911 call drove through parking areas around the school but didn’t get out. Police have said they didn’t have information needed to narrow their search.
A prosecutor determined that no one would face criminal charges in the death. The family has expressed frustration over what they say are incomplete explanations and the slow pace of reforms in emergency response. The city already has been upgrading smartphone communications, computer-assisted dispatch, police in-car mapping, and training.
The Enquirer reported that the Plush family didn’t respond to messages seeking comment on the newspaper’s investigation.