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Kyle Plush, 16, asphyxiated to death after getting pinned in the back of his 2004 Honda Odyssey as he tried to quickly reach for his tennis gear before heading for practice. According to a news report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, the sophomore was parked at the high school’s parking lot. He put a knee on the third-row bench seat and reached over the bench seat into the rear well.
It was then that the seat flipped backward. The force of that motion and the weight of the seat trapped Plush upside down, his head in the rear well and legs in the air against the minivan’s rear door. The coroner ruled that the teen died of asphyxia by compression, meaning that a weight restricted his ability to expand his chest to breathe.
How This Tragedy Occurred
The Cincinnati Enquirer examined a similar Odyssey and attempted to recreate this heart-wrenching episode. What they found was that when the Odyssey minivan’s latch on the rear bench seat is unfastened, it allows the seat to fold into the rear wall to create more floor room. When the seat latch is secured, the seat doesn’t move.
However, when the latch was not secured, a reporter kneeling on the bench seat and reaching into the rear well was able to rock the seat backward with little effort. That motion of a heavy metal-framed seat can sandwich a person upside down, pinned between the back of the bench seat and the rear door jamb. Plush voice-activated Siri on his out-of-reach iPhone to call 911 twice, but did not get the help he needed on time.
No Recalls Yet
Honda has confirmed that there were no recalls of the 2004 Odyssey relating to this seat issue. All recalls that applied to the type of vehicle in which Plush died, had been repaired, Honda officials said. Last fall, Honda recalled 900,000 Odyssey minivans between 2011 and 2017 to repair second-row seats that could flip forward if not latched.
We hope a thorough investigation will be conducted in this case and a recall issued if warranted. The manner in which these seats are designed seems extremely dangerous. Although this is the only known death involving Odyssey seats, this should not be treated as a “freak accident.” We hope federal safety officials and Honda will follow through on this matter. Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to this young man’s family.