A DRIVER was killed by the airbag designed to save his life, an inquest heard.
Ronald Smith inhaled a cocktail of chemicals after the safety device in his car was activated when he was involved in an accident.
The inquest was told he began to suffer chest and breathing problems almost immediately.
Coroner Terence Carney heard Mr Smith, of Whitby Avenue, South Bents, Sunderland, died in January, after the accident on November 12.
His widow June Smith said: “I knew from the very beginning that it was the airbag. I just knew.
“It’s just not fair that you have to lose someone because of something that is meant to save a life.”
Mr Smith, a father-of-two, was driving through Hartlepool on his way home when he was involved in a six-car shunt.
The engineer hit the car in front as another crashed into the back of his Vauxhall Insignia.
The impact set off the car’s airbag but also broke a window which cut the bag and he inhaled the gas from inside it.
Mrs Smith told the inquest that her husband was not injured in the accident, but that his face was red from an irritation caused by the contents of the airbag.
She said that he then began suffering from a cough and shortness of breath.
On January 5, he was taken to South Tyneside District Hospital.
Mrs Smith, of Marsden, said: “He just couldn’t breathe and he was very distressed. He could barely move. It was a very cold winter and he was really struggling. We used to walk everywhere and he was always out every night with the dog, but he got so bad that he couldn’t even walk a few steps without my help.”
Mr Smith was taken to the hospital’s accident and emergency unit where he was given a chest X-ray and, the next day, he was moved to intensive care.
He died in hospital on January 31 2011, aged 59.
Forensic pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton told the inquest that Mr Smith’s lungs were both extremely “heavy and firm” and that they showed signs of infection and that he died of bronchial pneumonia.
South Tyneside Coroner Mr Carney said: “I accept that the death was attributed to bronchial pneumonia and pulmonary fibrosis and that it was developed following this incident in November and the deceased’s exposure to noxious substances.
“This man died as a result of this incident and more pointedly because of the explosion of his airbag and this death should be recorded as misadventure.”
Mr Smith’s son, Lee, 36, said: “It’s the verdict I was looking for. Ever since it happened we wanted an investigation to see if anybody was to blame and I’m happy with what the coroner has said.”
A spokesman from Vauxhall said that the company planned to investigate the matter but did not wish to comment at this stage.
The AA said the motoring organisation had no record of any similar deaths.