News4Jax helps Navy family stationed overseas trying to fix recalled airbag

EOD chief from Jacksonville says new airbag ready but can't get it replaced

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM, Nikki Kimbleton - The Morning Show anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A U.S. Navy chief from Jacksonville and his wife contacted News4Jax wanting to tell their story about what's become a nightmare and what they say is happening to other service members as well.

Update: A Ford media representative contacted News4Jax Wednesday morning, saying they have been in contact with Mark and Beth Balliet and are working to get their vehicle repaired. We will update the story once the repair has been made.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal Chief Mark Balliet's military career sent him to Rota, Spain, last year. However, before he moved his wife and young son overseas, he received notice that the airbag in his 2007 Ford Fusion was involved in the massive Takata airbag recall.  

"Initially, it was just taking the letters, contacting the companies, whichever Ford dealership we were near. They were telling us they didn't have any airbags available and we would get a letter or be contacted when the airbags were available," he told us during a Skype interview.  

Mark and his family waited a year, but the airbag still wasn't ready. They said a dealership told them that they could just get the airbag replaced in Spain once the official notice arrived. So, they made the move overseas and took their vehicle with them.

"It's not like it's a recall on something that's minor for your car," Beth Balliet said.

The Balliets were relieved to finally receive the official airbag replacement notice from Ford, which said the airbag for his 2007 Fusion was ready. But that's when their new battle began.

After numerous phone calls and emails to try to get the available replacement airbag shipped to them in Spain, they said they were finally told that couldn't happen because the airbag replacement campaign had not yet started in that area.

"I mean, they ship cars over here all the time. I don't know why they couldn't (ship it)," Mark said.

"I know. Why can't they mail an airbag?" Beth asked.

"I don't feel like I am getting any help," Mark said. "It's like, 'Oh, we will contact you when it gets here.'"

So now, since 2016, Beth hasn't been able to sit in the front seat. She's been riding with their now 3-year-old son in the backseat.

"The fix for the airbag is, 'Don't sit in the front seat and it won't go off.' That's the fix," Mark said.

"We need to be able to utilize the entire car. It's not fair that we can't," Beth added. 

The couple told us they either have to wait until they return to the United States to get it fixed -- which could be another few years -- or sell their Ford Fusion in Spain. But they don't want to pass this potentially deadly problem on to someone else. 

"The guy here in the local Ford dealership just down the street, he showed me, he's like, 'I have a stack of nine recalls for American vehicles we can't get fixed,'" Mark said.

And the Balliets said they are not the only overseas military family experiencing this problem. 

"There is a Facebook community for people on our base and there are people on there who have different cars who their airbags have been recalled, and they can't get it replaced because nobody will help them," Beth said. 

"I wish there was more help or some sort of system to help military members," Mark said.

The family said, unfortunately, the military is unable to help because the vehicle was not purchased through the military program.

News4Jax contacted Ford corporate last week, sharing the Balliets' replacement airbag situation, and at Ford's request, the family's contact information in Rota, Spain. A Ford media representative said the company is looking into the issue.

We will continue to follow this situation and do what we can to assist the Balliet family. In the meantime, if you are in a similar situation -- where you've been notified that your replacement airbag is ready, but still can't get it replaced -- email us at ITEAM@News4Jax.com.

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