Teen Killed by Folding Third-Row Seat in Honda Odyssey

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
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teen killed by folding third row seat in honda odyssey

A 16-year-old boy was killed last week after being trapped behind the third-row seat of a 2004 Honda Odyssey.

The incident happened Tuesday in Cincinnati. Initial reports indicate that Kyle Plush was trying to retrieve tennis equipment from the cargo area of his family’s van when the third-row bench seat, which he was reaching over, unexpectedly folded. He was turned upside-down and stuck beneath the seat.

He managed to make two calls to 911, but died of asphyxia by chest compression before authorities arrived.

Questions about the police response are complicating matters. Plush’s death was ruled accidental, but the police response appears to have been lacking.

For example, the dispatcher who took the second call did not relay important information to the responding officers.

Plush was parked in the lot at Seven Hills School’s Hillsdale campus. He was a sophomore.

The timeline varies a bit from media report to media report, mainly because of updates. From what we can tell from the Cincinnati Enquirer, officers responded to the first call about 10 minutes after it was made and did not find Plush.

During the second call, Plush told 911 he was trapped in his family’s gold Odyssey. It’s unclear when the second call was made. The 911 operator apparently had a hard time hearing the call and even sent a code out over the phone line that would display the conversation as text on devices used by those with hearing impairments.

During all this, a Hamilton County sheriff’s deputy apparently called in, also looking for the caller. He said he’d had an argument with a woman in a van earlier and was wondering if that woman was making prank calls to the police.

The deputy said he saw just one van parked in the area, and that he did not see anyone.

Plush was found by a family member around 9 pm. Several calls flooded into 911 at around that time, and the two officers who responded earlier responded again. They told the dispatcher that they’d been there earlier in the day and they thought someone was playing pranks.

We reached out to Honda for comment and the automaker had this to say: “Honda has seen media reports regarding the tragic death of a teenager in a 2004 Honda Odyssey in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our hearts go out to the victim’s family during this difficult time. Honda does not have any specific information from which to definitively determine what occurred in this incident. We can confirm that there were no seat-related recalls affecting the 2004 Honda Odyssey.”

There are a lot of unanswered questions here, not least of which is how the seat folded, since a lever or strap must be pulled to operate the seat. Mechanical failure is another possibility, as is the chance that the bench may not have been properly locked into place.

That’s to say nothing of how the police appeared to miss Plush twice. The coroner’s office reported that he died in the van.

There are so many questions, but one thing is certain: A teen died a tragic death under apparently accidental circumstances.

[Image: Honda]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Apr 17, 2018

    This is the part that really is worrisome. "Update, 7:49 p.m.: The dispatcher who received Kyle Plush's second 911 call did not convey the information Plush provided to officers on the scene where he later died, police said." I know the dispatchers can be dense sometimes. My daughter and I were driving home on a back county road when we came upon a guy hanging upside down from a tractor. My daughter called 911 while I grabbed the guy to get him upright. The dispatcher asked for the address and neither of us knew but it was 1/8 mile from a rural school and she said so. The dispatcher again asked for the address and again she said she did not know but it was right by such and such school. Again the dispatcher asked for the address and said he could not send an ambulance without an address. We are a small community and everyone knows where that school is, even if you don't know the address. She went round and round with him for 10 minutes and then he asked to talk to me and I told him I did not know the address but it was by such and such school and the driver will know where it is. We had told him repeatedly the county road and the nearest intersection and after 15 minutes he finally relented and dispatched an ambulance. I complained to the crew when they arrived about the dispatcher and the lack of willingness to send someone out without an address. Similar story with my brother in law when he reported a house fire. Dispatch would not send the trucks without an address and he told the 911 operator his address and that the fire was across the street. He had to go round and round with them and eventually hung up to go get the people out of the house. He lived 3-4 blocks from a fire station. They could see the fire from the station when they left. I don't have a lot of faith in 911 operators/dispatchers.

  • Existentialee Existentialee on Apr 18, 2018

    This is a sad case of the usual the "good enough for government work" attitude combined with engineering that doesn't try to (or doesn't care to) comprehend reasonable scenarios that pose serious danger. Yes, the stow away function is really slick, but the danger of an unlatched seat folding and entrapping an unsuspecting passenger remains real and if it was not considered in the design --- then shame on Honda for not doing basic FMEA. There are many accidents that are waiting to happen because pragmatic designs decisions are over-ruled by reckless marketing fluff. Consider the original Chevy Volt hatchback. There is no doubt (if it hasn't already happened) that eventually someone will be left seriously injured when the hatch is slammed on top of a back seat passenger's head. The Volt hatchback is the only car I can think of that has the hatch hinge point forward of the back seat backing (makes for a sleeker looking body). This means anyone taller than 5'10" is vulnerable to getting whacked on the head when the hatch is opened (loading groceries for example) and then slammed shut. I explained this to a visiting GM engineer (my head poked way out the top with the hatch open as I am 6'1") as GM was seeking feedback from engineers of other disciplines (I am an EE). He told me with a straight face that "Well, the average person is around 5'9" so this isn't a problem". I actually submitted a notification of the defect to NHTSA, but I'm sure they'll respond after a few 6' tall teenagers end up with broken necks --- or maybe they won't respond at all, because, after all, they are moving at the speed of government. Luckily, the Volt is such an awful car, there are that many out there, so I suppose that will diminish the number folks subject to the danger.

    • AKADriver AKADriver on Apr 20, 2018

      Nearly every minivan made in the past 20 years has this seat design. There are hundreds of thousands if not a million or more of this generation of Odyssey on the road and this is the first such incident reported. If you've ever folded the third row seat of an Odyssey you'd know that it's not obvious at all how this would even be possible. The seat would have to be broken and/or so completely gummed with trash that the seat no longer latches down even with a full grown teenager sitting on it. Pretty much any 2+2 liftback coupe from the '80s and '90s is like that Volt. The hatch lid of a 240SX will come down on your head if you're 5'4".

  • Kwik_Shift One day I'll bring myself around to trying one of these out, with manual transmission. They look fun.
  • Zipper69 It worked in London, because the center of that city is a medieval layout ON TOP of a Roman layout, both designed for horse drawn traffic.Manhattan's grid and the available public transport options are a different matter.
  • Jkross22 To give a sense of priorities, Oakland has had a 50% jump in car thefts from last year. 40 cars per day are stolen in Oakland. Also in Oakland.... the city has a shortage of 911 operators so if/when you call, you're SOL. That is because they are saying no one is applying to the open 911 jobs. When an audit was recently done, over 1000 applicants applied to the 911 jobs, but no one had contacted them. Any of them. HR still earns the term "human remains". After Xi Xingpeng returned to China from his SF visit, all of the homeless people returned to the streets of San Francisco. They were all magically whisked away for his visit, something our governor was quite proud of doing. Makes you wonder why SF residents can't get that kind of treatment everyday. With all of the big problems solved, CA reps can focus on the real problems in the state.... making those MAGA rural volleyball team buses go all electric no matter whether EV buses make sense or not. And this guy wants to be president.....
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh Dear whiny people .. keep a small number of diesel busses. replace the rest .. my god people like sticking poles in their own bike spokes...
  • Canam23 I moved to Los Angeles in 1968 and the air was barely breathable. Thanks to the mandating of pollution controls and the work of the Air Quality Management District, it's 100% better today. When the first pollution targets were set in the 70's, Detroit moaned that it would be impossible to achieve, meanwhile the Japanese sat down and figured out how to do it. As a result of the constant strengthening of the anti pollution laws, our air is much less dangerous for our children. Furthermore, engineering has now created very clean, powerful and efficient engines. So Stellantis, I'm not buying it.