CALL 6: Grandfather concerned airbags did not deploy in accident

General Motors details what may have happened

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bobby Burton walked away from a collision with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, cuts and bruises.

His mangled 2013 Chevy Equinox was on display in his driveway.

"Right here was were the major blow was. I was sitting in the driver's seat,” said Burton.

Burton and his wife bought the vehicle after researching its safety features, especially since they like driving around their grandchildren.

The Burtons were well aware of how the Equinox performed on the government crash test done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The vehicle received good ratings, including airbag safety and that was good enough for them.

"My wife is a Chevy person, brothers both retired from GM,” said Burton.

On May 17, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police report shows Burton, who was driving alone, accidentally pulled into the path of an oncoming car near Flynn Road and Ratliff Road around 9:50 a.m.

"The car is totaled. It is totaled,” said Burton.

Despite the collision, his airbags did not deploy.

General Motors sent a technician to his home and ran tests for several hours. The company provided the Burtons with a copy of the technical report, but because of its technical language, the couple needed help understanding the findings.

The Burtons reached out to Call 6 Investigates to help them contact a GM officials to explain the report.

Company representatives called the couple and explained the results of the report.

In addition, GM officials sent Call 6 Investigates an e-mail statement which in part reads “Frontal airbags are designed to inflate in moderate to severe frontal or near-frontal crashes to help reduce the potential for severe injuries mainly to the driver's or right front passenger's head and chest.”

The statement went on to say “Whether the frontal airbags will or should deploy is not based on how fast your vehicle is traveling. It depends largely on what you hit, the direction of impact, and how quickly your vehicle slows down.”  

“Finally, airbags are designed to supplement not replace seat belts. Seat belts are the primary restraint in the event of a crash and can help reduce the risk of injury or death in a wide variety of crashes."

In the statement by GM, representatives also said:

Frontal airbags may inflate at different crash speeds. For example:
• If the vehicle hits a stationary object, the airbags could inflate at a different crash speed than if the vehicle hits a moving object.
• If the vehicle hits an object that deforms, the airbags could inflate at a different crash speed than if the vehicle hits an object that does not deform.
• If the vehicle hits a narrow object (like a pole), the airbags could inflate at a different crash speed than if the vehicle hits a wide object (like a wall).
• If the vehicle goes into an object at an angle, the airbags could inflate at a different crash speed than if the vehicle goes straight into the object.

Luckily, the police crash report shows Burton was wearing his seatbelt on the day of the accident.

"Every person that has seen this car, and I told them that the airbags did not deploy, say you are kidding me - I say no I'm not kidding you,” said Burton.

There are no recalls on the 2013 Equinox and the vehicle has a good safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 

At safecar.gov., drivers can track vehicle issues and file a complaint. At IIHS.org, drivers can see how airbags perform during a crash for a specific vehicle.

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