A woman died after suffering years of breathing problems triggered by dust she inhaled when her airbag exploded during a car crash, an inquest has heard.

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

During the collision, 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 her death heard that from this point Mrs Woodhouse's breathing gradually deteriorated - to the extent that she was required to use a wheelchair and oxygen supply for the last three years of her life.

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

Eastern Daily Press:

Her husband, Richard Woodhouse, told the court in the statement that during the Welsh holiday she had enjoyed hillwalking without problems - but that her ability to breathe continued to deteriorate after she recovered from the crash.

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 her newly transplanted 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.

He said: "When I saw her in May 2021 she explained her increasing breathlessness came after the road traffic collision left her covered in fine dust following deployment of the airbag.

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

Eastern Daily Press:

Meanwhile, Norfolk Coroner's Court heard that she had been admitted to hospital for a second time in the space of a month 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 at the inquest as respiratory failure caused by hypersensitivity pneumonitis, chemical pneumonitis and Covid pneumonitis.

Pneumonitis is a condition which causes inflammation in the lungs, which can occur in various ways.

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

He said: "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.

"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."

Following the inquest, Mr Woodhouse said: "She loved life and was hoping to make it to our golden wedding anniversary.

"I always suspected that it was due to the dust from the airbag."

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 of, but in 2012, Ronald Smith, a 59-year-old marine engineer from South Tyneside died of pneumonia three weeks after a crash in which his airbag burst.