A GRANDMOTHER died after suffering years of breathing problems triggered by dust she inhaled when her airbag exploded during a car crash in Herefordshire.

Kathleen Woodhouse, 64, died from respiratory failure seven years after being involved in a crash on the way home from a holiday in Wales.

The airbag of her Hyundai Santa Fe deployed but then ruptured, leaving her covered a fine dust contained inside the safety device.

An inquest into the grandmother-of-eight's death heard that her breathing gradually deteriorated and she was required to use a wheelchair and oxygen supply for the last three years of her life.

The court heard the crash, in Much Marcle, Herefordshire in 2016, was just six weeks after she underwent a successful liver transplant, due to non-alcohol-related sclerosis.

Chistopher Leach, assistant coroner for Norfolk, gave a narrative conclusion, having stated he did not consider her death to have been of natural causes.

"Mrs Woodhouse was involved in a serious road traffic incident following which her car airbag inflated and ruptured causing her to inhale a fine dust," he said.

"After the incident she became increasingly breathless and chest x-rays showed inflammation of her lungs.

"This was more than likely caused by inhalation of dust from the airbag."


Her husband, Richard, told the court that during the Welsh holiday Mrs Woodhouse, from Hellesdon, had enjoyed hillwalking without problems.

Initially, it was thought her breathlessness was caused by the injuries she sustained in her crash, which saw her suffer damage to her spleen and liver.

But further investigations were carried out after her problems persisted as she recovered from the injuries.

Christopher Atkins, a consultant respiratory physician from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said it was most likely that her difficulties did stem from the airbag dust.

"It seems that chemical pneumonitis caused by sodium in the airbag is the most likely cause of her difficulties," he said.

Norfolk Coroner's Court heard that Mrs Woodhouse had been admitted to hospital two days before her death.

She died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on April 8 last year, having been admitted on April 6. She had also tested positive for Covid-19.

The medical cause of her death was confirmed as respiratory failure caused by hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chemical pneumonitis and Covid pneumonitis, a condition which causes inflammation in the lungs.

Donna Needs, her daughter, said: "She was waiting for her liver transplant and afterwards got her life back.

"But after the crash, she suffered for the rest of her years."

Her son David Woodhouse added: "We lost her on the day of that crash."

Airbags in cars are inflated by a chemical reaction which produces a burst of nitrogen.

They contain dust, such as cornstarch or talcum powder to lubricate the airbag during deployment.

Very few cases similar to Mrs Woodhouse's are known.