A grandmother sat in a parked Honda Odyssey waiting for her granddaughter to come out of a tutoring class in Hattiesburg, Miss., when an airbag in the vehicle spontaneously deployed.

No accident. No impact. But the random deployment on May 8, 2012 sent her to the hospital, where doctors stitched her upper lip and dentists repaired several chipped teeth.

Four months later, another Honda Odyssey driver endured a similar incident. She had just placed the gearshift in 'drive' and the driver's-side and passenger-side frontal airbags spontaneously deployed. There had been no accident, nor impact.

An off-duty police officer witnessed the spontaneous deployment and helped the victim, who had suffered minor powder burns. He noted the airbag-firing mechanisms were still in motion.

"I've seen a lot of wrecks, but I've never seen the airbags continue to fire," he said of the Sept. 8, 2012 incident, according to a complaint filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "The horn continued to beep."

Those are two of at least six known spontaneously-deploying airbag incidents that have led NHTSA to open a preliminary investigation into whether 320,000 Honda Odysseys should be recalled. NHTSA announced the investigation Monday.
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Three people were injured in those deployments. The agency said at least 41 other complaints have been filed regarding airbags on the 2003 and '04 Odyssey models. One of the spontaneous deployments NHTSA cited occurred on an '01 Odyssey. All six of the cars affected were at least seven years old at the time of their incident.

A Honda spokesperson said the company has been aware of the airbag problem since Chrysler recalled nearly 1 million cars in two separate recalls within the past nine months. The two companies use the same supplier, TRW Automotive.

"Honda has been monitoring this issue since responding to a NHTSA information request involving their investigation of another manufacturer last year," spokesperson Chris Martin said in a written statement. "Honda will continue to cooperate with NHTSA through the investigation process, and will continue our own internal review."

Chrysler recalled 744,822 vehicles that contained TRW Automotive parts last November after receiving 215 reports of inadvertent deployments, and followed with a recall of 3,660 cars in February. A spokesperson for the supplier deferred comment to the affected automakers Monday.

Should NHTSA press for a recall on the affected Odysseys, it would be the latest in a long line of airbag-related recalls. Automakers have issued 17 so far this year, and are on pace to eclipse the record 23 airbag-related recalls issued in 2012.

NHTSA announced last week it was investigating whether 400,000 General Motors vehicles needed to be recalled because of a separate airbag problem.

Airbags can be expensive to fix. The woman from Hattiesburg, Miss., said mechanics estimated her car would cost $2,331.22 to repair after its spontaneous deployments. A man who said his airbags spontaneously deployed while he was stopped at a light, said his local Honda dealership quoted him a price of $4,100 for repairs.

The owner, whose name was redacted in the NHTSA complaint, expressed frustration in his dealings with Honda. He said Honda had twice-inspected the car following the incident, but could not pinpoint a cause.

"We left the vehicle at the dealership, asking for more specific documentation on potential causes," he wrote. "My wife and I believe the airbag deployment was the result of a safety defect, and Honda of America has refused to remedy the situation."

Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at Peter.Bigelow@teamaol.com and followed @PeterCBigelow.