Published on Thursday, March 17, 2016

Virgin pays out after child is burnt by exploding seatbelt airbag

Virgin Atlantic has paid out a five-figure sum to a seven-year-old girl who was burnt when an airline seatbelt airbag exploded in her face.

Daisy James, who was just four at the time of the incident, was trying to fasten her seatbelt on board the flight from Washington Dulles Airport to London Heathrow in May 2012 when an airbag exploded.

It burnt through Daisy's t-shirt and caused burns, cuts and bruises to her face, left arm, chest and thigh.

Paramedics were called to the scene and she was declared fit to fly back to the UK with her grandmother.

On her return to the UK, Daisy's mother was told by medics that Daisy should not have been allowed to fly with the injuries she had.

The injuries made it difficult for her to eat or drink and for a number of months after the flight she suffered nightmares.

She was referred to a child psychologist at the Frenchay Hospital after developing a fear of loud noises.

Nicola Southwell, an expert aviation lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, who represented Daisy's family, said: "This incident has had a huge impact on a very young child, not only physically in terms of the injuries Daisy suffered, but also psychologically, as it had an significant impact on Daisy's day-to-day life.

"We are delighted to have secured a settlement for Daisy and her family that will ensure she continues to get the help she needs to overcome the psychological impact this incident had on her and enable her to begin to put it behind her."

Daisy's mother Gillian, a project controller, said: "To find out that her injuries were caused by an exploding airbag on-board the plane was absolutely shocking - the device is supposed to be a safety measure but actually caused my daughter serious injuries.

"After the accident not a day went by when Daisy didn't mention the airbag exploding and she struggled to sleep for a long time afterwards."

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said: "We have expressed our sincere apologies to the family and while it doesn't lessen the impact of what happened, we have reached a settlement to the family's satisfaction. We have investigated the incident thoroughly and can confirm that it was an extremely unusual and isolated incident." 

In the case of an accident, the airbag is designed to open up and away from a passenger - providing protection to the head, neck and torso - but in this case it was faulty and exploded with no trigger.

The airbag is stored in the seatbelt itself and contains a 'crash sensor' which detects an accident.

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