Destiny Marie Byassee: Young Mother Died after Counterfeit Airbag Exploded During Collision and Sprayed Her Face With Shrapnel

The Malibu was involved in another crash on September 24, 2022, that also caused serious damage to the car and activated its original airbag.

A young mother was killed when a fake, defective airbag "detonated like a grenade" during a crash, spraying her with shrapnel, a lawsuit claims. Destiny Marie Byassee, 22, died on June 11 last year when her 2020 Chevy Malibu was involved in a frontal collision in Punta Gorda, Florida.

The airbag deployed, but instead of saving her life, it "detonated like a grenade and shot metal and plastic shrapnel throughout the vehicle cabin." The complaint was lodged with the 17th Judicial Circuit Court for Broward County on behalf of her grandmother, husband, mother, and two children aged 4 and 6.

Killed by Safety Equipment

Destiny Marie Byassee
Destiny Marie Byassee X

"Several fragments from the blast struck Ms Byassee in the face, head, and neck, ultimately killing her," the lawsuit filed on May 16, her son's birthday, claimed. Byassee's family's lawyer, Andrew Felix, laid out a shocking series of events that the lawsuit claimed led directly to her death.

The Malibu was involved in another crash on September 24, 2022, that also caused serious damage to the car and activated its original airbag.

"The damage to the subject Chevy Malibu from the crash was so significant that the vehicle should have been classified as a total loss, issued a salvage title, and removed from service," the lawsuit claimed.

Instead, its owner Enterprise Rent-A-Car decided to sell it through car auctioneer Manheim, but first, it had to be repaired.

Haim Levy, a mechanic who owns Jumbo Automotive in Hollywood, Florida, was hired to fix the car, including replacing the airbag.

The lawsuit claimed he used "counterfeit and non-compliant airbag components" from Chinese vehicle part maker Jilin to save money.

Destiny Marie Byassee
Destiny Marie Byassee with her husband and child Facebook

Levy also had to replace a seat belt pretensioner, which locks the belt in place during a crash to keep the driver from being flung all the way forward. The lawsuit claimed he again cut corners and neither replaced nor repaired the damaged part.

"Jumbo and Levy cut the wires to the seat belt pretensioner so that the front driver's seatbelt would release from its deployed position, appear normal, and appear to function as designed and intended to an unwitting customer," it claimed.

Multiple Faults

Manheim then sold the refurbished vehicle at auction to Byassee, and she drove it around until the fatal crash months later.

"Byassee had no idea that the vehicle had been improperly and illegally repaired, that the vehicle contained counterfeit and non-compliant airbag components, or that the vehicle's front driver-side seatbelt pretensioner was disabled and inoperable," the lawsuit claimed.

Both components failed in the crash, with the seatbelt pretensioner not deploying as originally designed, and the airbag responding far worse.

The lawsuit included two photos of the inside of the car in the aftermath of the crash that show a horrifying event. One showed the exploded airbag module with shredded airbag on the seat, and the other showed the shredded and blood-soaked front driver-side airbag.

The law firm said many counterfeit airbags from China were unknowingly installed into US cars.

Byassee's grandmother, Cathy King, leads the lawsuit, with her mother, Lorretta Simmons, husband, Ernesto Donovan Barrientes, and her children named plaintiffs.

Enterprise, Manheim, Jumbo, and Levy himself are named as defendants with unspecified damages demanded for 14 counts of negligence, violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, breach of warranty, and strict liability.