Kristy Williams wanted to be a police officer. She was working toward a degree in Psychology from Clayton State University in Georgia.
It was April 2010. Williams had a little more than a month remaining before she was set to graduate. She was returning home in her red 2001 Honda Civic after a day of classes. She stopped at a red light at Reynolds Road in Morrow, Georgia when her whole life changed.
As Williams waited at the traffic light, both driver and passenger frontal airbags suddenly deployed. When the driver’s side airbag inflated, pieces of metal sliced through the airbag. The airbag inflator had exploded and ruptured sending razor sharp pieces of metal knifing throughout the car.
A piece of the shrapnel hit Williams on the left side of her neck, cutting her carotid artery. Blood began pouring from her neck. Blood that was meant to supply her brain.
Witnesses told police the Civic was not in an accident — no hit, no bump, not even a nudge. There was no impact or anything else that would have triggered the event. It had happened completely spontaneously.
Williams left arm was broken during the initial airbag deployment. Luckily for Williams, she was able to remain fairly calm. She saved her own life by plugging the wound with two fingers. It kept her from losing too much blood before emergency services arrived and took her to the hospital.
She spent two weeks in intensive care. She had seizures. Doctors performed surgery to remove the razor sharp metal from her neck. After a second surgery, Williams suffered a stroke and had to have a third major surgery.
“The Honda air bag that was supposed to protect Ms. Williams caused her injuries,” Leigh May, Williams’ lawyer, said after the incident. “It is important for the public to know about the seriousness of this defect and its potential for causing catastrophic injuries and deaths.”
Honda had previously issued a recall for driver’s side airbags in 2009. However, it didn’t include the 2001 Civic.
It wasn’t until earlier this month that Williams’ 2001 Civic was included. On December 2, the Japanese automaker made its fourth airbag-related recall. There were 304,000 affected vehicles in the December recall, including Civics from 2001-2003.
Honda said that there had been 20 reported cases of this malfunction causing injuries, including a pair of deaths in 2009.
Williams was lucky not to become a third death. After recovering, she filed a lawsuit against Honda and the two parties reached an out-of-court settlement. However, Williams has been left with more than just a payday. She also has a six- to seven-inch scar diving down the left side of her neck and shattered dreams.
Since the accident, she graduated with honors and now works as a fitness instructor and assistant manager of a gym. But due to the neck injury, she cannot pursue her dream of becoming a police officer.
She said if she were an officer, the damage done to her neck could potentially make her susceptible to a deadly attack so she had to let go of her dream…all because her Honda spontaneously let go of her airbags.