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Infant’s Horrifying Death Focuses Attention on Air Bags

November 28, 1996

BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ A 1-year-old girl decapitated by an air bag in a fender-bender was thrown into the bag because her child safety seat was not secured, authorities say.

The fact that the safety seat was not belted to the car’s front passenger seat was a major factor in Alexandra Greer’s death, said Ada County Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg.

A team of federal investigators was sent to Boise to look into Tuesday night’s accident, and Idaho Sen. Dirk Kempthorne called for congressional hearings into air bag safety.

Alexandra was in a forward-facing child safety seat when her mother, 21-year-old Rebecca Blackman, rear-ended a car that had just entered the Boise Towne Square Mall parking lot.

The impact deployed the Volkswagen Jetta’s passenger-side air bag at a force of 200 mph, decapitating the child and throwing her head through the door window and into the parking lot.

Motorists flooded local officials with calls, worried about the hidden threat of air bags.

``Parents want to protect their kids, and they’re pretty horrified that a parent who was trying to protect her child had such a gruesome accident,″ said Nancy Rush, the community health education coordinator for the area health district.

Air bags have been credited with saving more than 1,600 lives. But they also have been blamed for the deaths of 32 children and 20 adults, mostly smaller women, in low-speed crashes they otherwise might have survived.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now requiring strongly worded warning labels in new cars and is considering other changes, including bags that deploy less forcefully.

The warnings also are being distributed in millions of pamphlets and letters. About 30 companies, primarily automakers and insurers, have financed the information push that includes passing out leaflets at rest areas along the busiest highways in all 50 states during the heavily traveled Thanksgiving holiday.

The fliers warn drivers about the dangers of air bags and the need to buckle up kids under 12 in the back seat.

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