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Honda Odyssey Seat Flips, Crushes Boy: Freak Accident or Larger Issue?

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It's too early to say whether there's a larger problem here, but there are two issues at play in the death of a 16-year-old boy in April:

  1. The "unacceptable" performance of the 911 operator, who may have failed to give enough information to the police.
  2. A possible defect in the Honda Odyssey minivan that can cause the rear bench seat to collapse when not properly latched.

When the boy grabbed his tennis gear from the back of his 2004 Odyssey, the third-row seat flipped and pinned him down. He'd apparently leaned over the third-row seat from inside the van when it flipped, trapping him in the rear cargo area. Despite two emergency calls, first responders were unable to find him in time, and the boy asphyxiated.

Siri to the rescue

"I'm stuck in my gold Honda Odyssey," the boy said to the 911 operator. "This is not a joke, this is not a joke, I am stuck in my gold Honda Odyssey van." That was the second call. In the first, he said he was in a Seven Hills parking lot. It took police 12 minutes to arrive at the scene - so they did find the general location - but because the make and model of his vehicle wasn't given to the police, they couldn't find him.

The only way the boy called 911 in the first place was by voice-activating Siri on his iPhone, which was on the front seat, while he remained trapped in back.

The 911 operator was placed on leave after the incident, but will soon return to work, pending an internal investigation. Of the phone call, the operator said, "It was really hard to hear. It was really a strange call."

Honda recalls

There's no recall on the 2004 Odyssey for this type of bench seat collapse, as Honda pointed out: "We can confirm that there were no seat-related recalls affecting the 2004 Honda Odyssey."

But this is similar to a recent Honda recall that does involve seats on the 2011-2017 Odysseys - at least when it comes to latch mechanisms. Specifically, the latching mechanism on the second-row bench seats in these later model Odysseys may not latch properly, causing the seat to slide, with possible injuries as a result.

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