Young Mom Dies in Car Crash Due to Counterfeit Airbag

A tragic incident unfolded last year when a young mother from Florida lost her life due to a counterfeit airbag that detonated “like a grenade” during a car accident, according to a recent lawsuit. Destiny Marie Byassee, 22, was involved in a head-on collision while driving a pre-owned 2020 Chevy Malibu on June 11, 2023.

The lawsuit, filed in the Broward County 17th Judicial Circuit Court on May 16, states that Byassee was properly restrained and wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident. The mother of two had purchased the Malibu from DriveTime, a used car and financial services company based in Tempe, Arizona, which operates nationwide.

The lawsuit alleges that the vehicle, previously a rental car owned and operated by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, should not have been on the road or sold to anyone. The car had been involved in a significant collision on September 24, 2022, which caused the front driver-side airbag and seatbelt pretensioner to deploy. The damage was so extensive that the vehicle should have been deemed a total loss, issued a salvage title, and removed from service, according to the lawsuit.

Despite this, the lawsuit claims that the Malibu was sold by Enterprise to DriveTime through Manheim Auctions, Inc., a company that touts itself as the world’s largest wholesale automobile auctions company. The lawsuit is unclear about when the nearly-totaled Malibu was repaired, but alleges that it was fixed at a repair shop in Hollywood, Florida. The mechanic allegedly used counterfeit and non-compliant airbag components to replace the Chevrolet factory airbag.

The counterfeit airbag was reportedly manufactured and sold by Jilin Province Detiannuo Safety Technology Company. The lawsuit also alleges that the seatbelt pretensioner was improperly repaired, with the mechanic cutting the wires so that the seatbelt would appear normal and functional to an unsuspecting consumer.

Byassee, the lawsuit alleges, was unaware that the vehicle had been improperly and illegally repaired, that it contained counterfeit and non-compliant airbag components, or that the vehicle’s front driver-side seatbelt pretensioner was disabled and inoperable. The consequences were catastrophic.

During the June 2023 collision, both the counterfeit airbag and faulty seatbelt pretensioner were signaled to deploy. However, due to the inoperable pretensioner and the counterfeit airbag components, the airbag exploded like a grenade, sending metal and plastic shrapnel throughout the vehicle cabin.

The lawsuit was filed by Cathy King, Byassee’s grandmother, on behalf of the deceased woman’s estate, husband, two children, and mother. The 33-page lawsuit seeks a jury trial on 14 various counts against the various defendants, including strict liability, negligence, and deceptive trade practices, with an unspecified amount of damages. According to the Miami Herald, Manheim was the only named defendant to respond to inquiries about the litigation, stating that while the event was tragic, they could not comment on the lawsuit at this time.