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Six Washington state troopers have sued Ford, claiming their patrol vehicles made them sick from carbon monoxide poisoning. The officers blame a design flaw in 2014-17 Explorer SUVs modified for police duty.

The troopers allege their department-issued vehicles have problems with the exhaust or the ventilation system, or both, that allow "exhaust odor and gases, including carbon monoxide -- an odorless, toxic gas, to enter the passenger compartment of the vehicles while in use." As a result, said the lawsuit filed in Clark County Superior Court in Vancouver, Wash., the vehicles cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and potentially life-threatening situations.

In the lawsuit, troopers allege that the "hazardous defect" has resulted in numerous complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the opening of a federal investigation into the vehicles. The lawsuit also notes that "Ford has recently issued an emission recall notice for all Ford Interceptor SUVs built from 2011-18."

"The defect is not new to Ford," the lawsuit says. As early as 2012, Ford had "issued Technical Service Bulletins to its exclusive network of dealers, recognizing the presence of exhaust odors and fumes."

In addition, the lawsuit noted the federal traffic safety investigation summary reports "three crash events and 25 injury incidents citing a total of 41 injuries. The alleged injuries ... range from unspecified to loss of consciousness with a majority indicating nausea, headaches or light-headedness. One police incident alleged a crash with related injuries, and a second police incident reported a physiological injury allegedly from carbon monoxide exposure. Another reported police incident resulted in a rollover crash event with injuries."

Ford spokesman Mike Levine said Monday in a statement to the Detroit Free Press: "As we have previously said, carbon monoxide concerns in Police Interceptor Utilities are related to unsealed holes from the installation of police equipment by third parties after the vehicle was purchased."

Police departments in more than a dozen states, including California, raised concerns about possible carbon monoxide leaks.

Newport Beach, Calif., police officer Brian McDowell was responding to a nonemergency call when he passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Ford Explorer police cruiser and crashed into a tree, CBS News has reported.

"I just think, plus or minus one second, I maybe wouldn't be here on this earth for my kids," he told the network in 2017.

That year, police departments added carbon monoxide detectors in their vehicles.

"They live in these cruisers for, you know, eight hours at a time, maybe longer," said Capt. Shawn Steele of the fire department in Auburn, Mass., where at one point a third of the town's cruisers were taken out of service, CBS News reported.

The lawsuit filed this month faults Ford for its "pre-production testing, design failure mode analysis and consumer complaints to dealers and [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration]" and then concealing the defect from the law enforcement officers.

"Current plaintiffs are troopers who were issued the Ford Explorer Interceptors as their regular patrol vehicles," the lawsuit says. "Plaintiffs were advised that the vehicles were safe to drive and that there were no problems which would cause them any hazard, injury or harm. Plaintiffs detected exhaust fumes within the passenger compartment of their vehicles while driving, and plaintiffs have suffered headaches, nausea, foggy thinking and flu-like symptoms. ... Trooper [Randall] Cashatt has suffered permanent neurological damage which has prevented him from continuing his job as a Washington State Patrol trooper."

In October 2018, the CBS affiliate in Seattle, KIRO-TV, reported that Cashatt, then a 20-year veteran trooper, said his 2014 Ford Explorer Police Interceptor made him so ill, "I remember thinking that I was going to die."

On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statement:

"Safety drives everything we do at NHTSA. The agency's investigation into model year 2011-2017 Ford Explorer SUVs is ongoing. Steps include: testing multiple civilian and law enforcement vehicles; conducting field inspections of complaint vehicles and crashes involving police units; evaluating consumer complaints; and monitoring the effectiveness of Ford's customer service repair campaigns. NHTSA will publicly release the agency's conclusions when the safety defect investigation is completed."

Business on 08/13/2019

Print Headline: Police say cruisers vented deadly gas

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