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Mind and Body

Driver dies after breathing in airbag fumes

British driver who survived the impact of a minor car crash was killed by the fumes from his airbag.

Ronald Smith, 59, was not injured during the six-car wreck in Hartlepool, northeastern England, but the impact of the crash triggered his car's airbag and broke a window, which cut through the safety device.

The Vauxhall Insignia's punctured airbag released chemicals that quickly caused Smith, a healthy father of two, to suffer chest and breathing problems, the Scottish Daily Record reported Tuesday.

The engineer, from the coastal town of Whitburn, was taken to the hospital in January 2011, two months after the crash. His lungs showed signs of infection, and he died from bronchial pneumonia.

Coroner Terence Carney said, "This man died as a result of this incident and more pointedly because of the explosion of his airbag, and this death should be recorded as misadventure."

Smith's widow, June, said, "I knew from the very beginning that it was the airbag. I just knew, but other people would look at me as if to say, 'Don't be silly.' Ronnie told me about the white powder straightaway. He said there was so much of it he couldn't see."

She added, "It's just not fair that you have to lose someone because of something that is meant to save a life."

A Vauxhall spokesman said the company would not comment but planned to investigate the incident.

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