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Unexpected airbag deployment reported in some old BMWs

Unexpected airbag deployment reported in some old BMWs (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Ian Hao was on his way to work when all of a sudden, bang, he was hit in the side of the head and body by an exploding airbag. Ian says he was driving freeway speeds and had not hit anything that would have caused the airbag to blow. When he pulled over, he inspected his 1999 BMW 328i.

“There was no visual damage,” he said. “I didn't hit a pot hole or bottom it out.”

But when Ian reported the dangerous experience to BMW, the car maker blamed him.

“[BMW] said the sensor sensed something, that I possibly hit something,” he said.

Ian says he pushed back claiming it simply wasn’t true and any damage on the 18 year old car existed before the day his airbag blew. He says those protests did not persuade BMW.

“I feel like this is a safety issue,” Ian said.

Ian is not alone suffering a surprise airbag explosion while driving a 1999 BMW 328i. According to federal records, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has heard from seven others who say the same thing happened to them in their cars.

BMW is also aware that there have been airbag issues in that make and model. Recalls were issued in both 1999 and 2002 to repair sensors in the car that could cause the airbags to deploy without a serious impact.

Reached for comment, a BMW spokesperson told Get Gephardt what the company had told Ian: "The car sustained enough of an impact to deploy the airbags," the spokesperson wrote in an email. BMW determined Ian’s car had "significant damage" to the frame "which is a strong indication that the tires / rims made significant contact with an object."

When Get Gephardt asked about the fact that there appears to be a pattern of 1999 BMW 328i’s airbags going off unexpectedly, that spokesperson’s supervisor responded, "This is not a documented problem as you state."

Ian was eventually offered $1500, about a third of what it will cost to repair his car, by BMW. He says that even if the car maker paid for all of it, he's not comfortable getting back behind its wheel.

“I don't feel safe driving it - so it sits,” he said.

Ian ultimately sold the car for about 25 percent of the car’s blue-book value to someone who plans to scrap the car for parts, he says.

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