By on April 16, 2018

2004 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]

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29 Comments on “Teen Killed by Folding Third-Row Seat in Honda Odyssey...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Wow. That is like a bit from Final Destination. Sad though

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      My thoughts exactly. Death at the hands of an unsuspecting contrivance under circumstances that could only happen under extremely particular and odd circumstances.

      I read this story when it came out, sad indeed. Seems like there were multiple attempts by the teen to seek help with his smartphone using the Siri feature but the police apparently did not find the correct vehicle or never bothered to look inside.

      • 0 avatar

        One question I have is why the side door was not open on the van. If you’re hopping in the back for gear and right back out, it’s unlikely that you’d close the sliding door – takes too long.

        The other thing that strikes me is just how precisely his body would’ve had to be positioned to end up pinned this way. A horrible and rare coincidence.

        • 0 avatar
          thegamper

          I’m thinking the forward momentum of flipping over the seat created a wedge against the rear tailgate and his diaphragm area so tight he couldn’t budge. Would explain the slow asphyxiation.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoTone Loser

        Maybe those automatic doors that close after a while? or a bump of the keyfob close button in the tumble? Either way, sad.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    This is sad, but I am having a hard time visualizing how the seat folded and how he was reaching in.

    • 0 avatar

      This should help.

      https://www.cincinnati.com/videos/news/2018/04/12/how-authorities-say-teen-died-honda-odyssey/33784919/

    • 0 avatar
      epc

      The 3rd row seat backrest folds down to the cushion, and then the whole thing pivots backward into the floor. The folding and pivoting takes place in 1 motion.

      The boy was kneeling on the seat, facing the tailgate. He then leaned over the top of the seat and reached down to grab something that was on the cargo floor. At this moment the bench pivoted, and he basically somersaulted with the seat assembly. His upper body ended up at the bottom, the seat assembly on his chest, and his legs were sicking up.

      This is my understanding. I’m still surprised he was able to call 911 at all. Apparently he called out Siri on his iphone. So the connection was made, but due to his body position, the voice was weak.

      (Edited to add: someone else answered while I was typing, but yeah, the URL above me was better. It showed what I was trying to describe.)

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “The 3rd row seat backrest folds down to the cushion, and then the whole thing pivots backward into the floor. The folding and pivoting takes place in 1 motion.”

        No, it doesn’t. That’s for the newer models.

        For the 1999-2004 models, it’s two very specific actions that must happen in sequence. The first folds the seat back down onto the seat cushion; the second unlatches and pulls the entire (now collapsed) bit up and over 180 degrees into the well.

        I sold my ’02 back in October, otherwise I’d be testing this–but 17 years of owning that van tells me that the seat must have been in pretty bad disrepair for this to happen. The odds of it functioning just fine and then suddenly breaking so as to do this are astronomical.

  • avatar
    vvk

    This is terrible. My heart goes out to the boy’s parents.

  • avatar
    Duaney

    From other reports, it appears that the seat was not “latched” into the down position. If it’s what it looks like, I’d say that faulty engineering is to blame. When pivoting the seat into the down position, it would seem logical that an automatic latch would engage the seat, and to release the seat again the latch would have to be released. If Honda designed it so that the seat had to be purposely latched, once in the down position, that would be a very poor design. For sure, a freak accidental death, sure sorry for the young man and his family and friends. Looks like the dispatcher is responsible as well, should be charged with negligent homicide.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “From other reports, it appears that the seat was not “latched” into the down position. If it’s what it looks like, I’d say that faulty engineering is to blame.”

      Nope.

      If it wasn’t latched into the down position, the very act of his sitting on it to reach over the seatback would have latched it down.

      The seat mechanism, after 17 years, was clearly in disrepair. It was broken. And my guess is that the family knew that and never had it fixed.

      The odds of it suddenly breaking so as to do what they say it did are astronomically low. And it’s virtually impossible for him to have unlatched it by sitting on the seat and reaching over the back.

      And why he was doing it that way in the first place is a mystery. If the seat is up in the seating position, the well behind it is unreachably low–you can’t get to anything back there. You would instead simply open the hatch from the outside.

      Doing what he appeared to do–walk back from the driver’s seat and reach over the third row backrest–is the weirdest thing in the world to do, so much so as to be in question in and of itself. That itself leads me to wonder if the hatch was inoperable.

      In my 17 years of owning an ’02, I can say that the third row is impossible to unlatch when you’re sitting on it–even reaching over the seat back. I can also say the hatch never became inoperable. Nor did the automatic sliding doors.

      Whatever happened, I am confident that the car itself was broken in many known ways long before this kid did what he did.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        Glad you said what I would have – we just got rid of our 2001 (same seat inside) that we’ve owned since 2008, and all I can think is that the front floor pockets were either full of stuff such that the front two feet couldn’t lock into them, and/or there was some other defect that prevented the latch from engaging.

        My biggest question is: why in the world would you not just open the rear hatch? Was the exterior handle broken or the power lock mechanism inoperable such that it couldn’t be opened from the outside?

        What happened was tragic, but it sounds preventable (although who would have predicted such an outcome?).

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Behind every seemingly inane warning label slapped onto all physical objects today, there is a sad edge-case story.

    This is one of those, and will for sure get memorialized with yet another warning label.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I used to work for a company that made aluminum climbing equipment, sold to consumers and commercial users. We had a “risk management” department that advised the rest of the company about what labels & etc., to put on products.

      All aluminum ladders in the last 40(?) years have dire warnings about placing them on electric cables. The worst incident was the husband of an employee doing just that. He blew off his feet.

      We could only make the label bigger and more brightly yellow…

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I read about this over the weekend. I can’t imagine a pain worse in your life as a parent than losing your child. What a tragic incident. I wish them peace and understanding.

    I’m a little hesitant to blame the engineering on the car itself. The van is nearly as old as the child, how likely is it that something is worn out or broken, therefore not functioning properly?

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      That’s what the investigation is for. Not to be snarky — it’s genuinely something that’s mystifying.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Its possible that the seat didn’t latch due to junk in the area of the latch. Also, when it was put in the upright position, someone may not have fully latched it, pulled it open and didn’t make sure it was fully seated/latched.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “Also, when it was put in the upright position, someone may not have fully latched it, pulled it open and didn’t make sure it was fully seated/latched.”

        His weight on the seat would have latched it immediately.

        That seat was a great piece of engineering. I have 17 years of experience with it, and cannot imagine how this could have happened without the owner knowing the seat was not working–or, as you put it, stuffing junk in there and blocking the latches. But even then, you can’t put that seat up and have it functional in ANY way if it doesn’t latch–it would simply fall backwards if junk was in the way of the latches.

        This was already broken in a known way, possibly in multiple ways. Reaching over that seatback to the well is horribly awkward; anyone would choose simply to use the hatch from the outside. Was that broken?

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “I’m a little hesitant to blame the engineering on the car itself. The van is nearly as old as the child, how likely is it that something is worn out or broken, therefore not functioning properly?”

      This. 1000% this. I owned an ’02, and the ONLY way anything like this could have happened was that the car was broken in a known fashion. There’s no way that both latches that hold the seat in the upright seating position broke at once.

      And for those who insist that the seat was simply not latched down, there’s no way that his weight on the seat as he reached over the back did NOT force the whole mechanism down onto those latches.

      And he could not have unlatched the seat using the official mechanism, not from his position. The only way for the seat to have pivoted like that was a failure of BOTH of those latches, and that simply did not suddenly happen at that moment. They were already broken in a known way.

      • 0 avatar
        Secret Hi5

        What was the weather at the time of the incident? Perhaps he did not want to go outside the vehicle.
        I am wondering how they know he was reaching for tennis gear. Did he say that to the 911 operator?

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    My condolences to the family.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Tragic. I wonder if there were incidents like this in the past with station wagons like the Ford Twin-facing rear seats or GM’s folding 3rd seat. IIRC there were some severe injuries from the GM Clamshell tailgate where the motor for the upper window did not reverse when an object or body part was in-between the gate and the glass.

    Thanks for the link from Cincinnati.com outlining and diagraming the incident. Solid explaniatory journalism.

  • avatar
    pdog_phatpat

    Ban assault folding seats now!

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    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.

  • avatar
    existentialee

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      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″.

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