AUSTIN, Texas / NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – At least two police officers have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while driving the Ford Explorer. Hundreds of motorists have complained and filed lawsuits. However, Ford denies the allegations.

Austin Police Department – carbon monoxide poisoning

A police officer in Texas is recovering after falling ill from carbon monoxide poisoning while in his patrol vehicle. The Austin officer was in his Ford patrol vehicle early Saturday morning when he began feeling nauseous, reported KRISTV.com.

Officials say he hit a curb and then called for help, realizing something wasn’t right. He was taken to the hospital and later released after treatment.

Similar incidents have been reported across the country in Ford Explorers, according to officials. The manufacturer for a short time recalled the vehicles before being brought back.

The Austin Police Association was unhappy with the chain of events. They called the incident “unacceptable.”

“This is just something the officer should not have to worry about, going to calls and passing out behind the wheel and causing an accident that could kill them or somebody else on the road.” said Ken Casaday with the Austin Police Association.

The association says the police agency plans to buy kits to detect carbon monoxide in all of the department’s vehicles.

Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer is the best-selling midsize SUV in the country, with around one million on the road. But hundreds of customers say the vehicles might be making them sick, reported CBS News last month.

Hundreds of people who own Explorers describe it as a sulfur or rotten egg smell coming into the car while they are driving, according to CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. It’s exhaust, from the rear of the vehicle, and they worry it could be toxic.

Newport Beach Police Department – carbon monoxide poisoning

The officer from Austin Police Department was not the first to suffer the consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning. In Newport Beach, California, Officer Brian McDowell said it nearly killed him.

carbon monoxide poisoning

Officer Brian McDowell’s patrol unit following the collision (YouTube screenshot)

Dash cam video shows the moment McDowell’s life changed. He was responding to a non-emergency call when he passed out behind the wheel of his 2014 Ford Explorer police unit and crashed into a tree.

“I just think, plus or minus one second and I maybe wouldn’t be here on this earth for my kids,” McDowell said.

McDowell has scars from a dislocated shoulder, fractured eye socket and traumatic brain injury, but no memory of the accident.

“I just went out. Just like that,” he said.

Records show McDowell had no drugs or alcohol in his system.

“I just had that nauseous feeling and just feeling like I had a headache,” McDowell said.

McDowell went through months of testing. Yet doctors couldn’t figure out why he blacked out. Then he learned about drivers complaining about the carbon monoxide leading into the cabin of the Ford Explorers, likely through unsealed seams in the rear of the vehicle.

Based on customer complaints and Ford’s own documents, the issue seems to occur while accelerating with the air conditioning active and in circulation mode, according to the CBS report. McDowell said he believes the car made him sick and led to him passing out.

Drive Your Car (DYC) Channel

NHTSA investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation last July, citing 154 customer complaints about exhaust in Ford Explorers model years 2011 through 2015.

But CBS News discovered that’s grown to more than 450 complaints, some involving 2016 and 2017 models, which are not part of NHTSA’s investigation. While declining to comment further, NHTSA maintains there haven’t been any serious injuries—something McDowell’s attorney, Brian Chase, disputes.

“When I saw that they said there were no injuries, we immediately got NHTSA on the phone,” Chase said. “I gave them all the information we had in the lawsuit.”

Ford’s known about the issue since at least 2012, according to CBS News, when the company issued its first of three repair bulletins to dealers aimed at fixing the problem.

In a 2015 deposition, a company representative acknowledged it appears to be a “design issue.” That remains unresolved – or as he said, “we’re working on it.”

The automaker has stopped short of notifying customers, according to the Feb 13, 2017 report, but told CBS News: “In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers,” adding the issue “poses no safety risk.”

McDowell has filed a lawsuit against Ford over his injuries. But his isn’t the only exhaust-related case. In August, Ford agreed to settle a class action lawsuit filed in Florida. The amount of the settlement is unknown and won’t be finalized until May. Another class action filed in New Jersey is still pending. Ford has denied all the allegations in that case.

Teton County Sheriff’s Office

The Teton County Sheriff in Idaho is concerned carbon monoxide is leaking into some of his Ford patrol vehicles and he’s upset the automaker isn’t doing anything about the potential problem, reported East Idaho News.

Sheriff Tony Liford became aware of McDowell’s collision. His agency drives 2016 Ford Police Interceptor SUVs.

“What’s concerning to me is we got no notification from Ford that this was a problem,” Liford says. “I would expect notifications to law enforcement agencies since this is such a popular vehicle.”

Several weeks ago, Liford installed carbon monoxide detectors in all of his vehicles. When a dangerous level of the colorless, odorless gas enters the SUV, a high-pitched alarm sounds.

“Since then we’ve had two of the 2016 Interceptor monitors go off,” Liford says. “When they go off, the deputies roll down their windows and wait for the beeping to stop.”

Madison County Sheriff’s Office

When the Madison County Sheriff’s Office learned about the potential carbon monoxide problem a few weeks ago, Chief Deputy Bart Quayle says detectors were purchased for their vehicles.

Naturally it would be prudent for all law enforcement agencies (and citizens) driving these vehicles to equip them with the carbon monoxide detectors as the problem does not appear to be resolved.

(Feature image Officer Brian McDowell’s patrol unit–YouTube sceenshot)

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