AUBURN, Mass. — Authorities in Massachusetts said they are investigating whether a police officer was exposed to carbon monoxide gas while driving a Ford SUV police vehicle, possibly causing him to lose consciousness and rear-end another car.
The incident in Auburn comes just days after the Austin, Texas, police department removed more than 400 Ford Interceptor SUVs, a modified version of the Explorer, from its fleet after detecting potentially dangerous levels of the odorless gas inside its vehicles.
Ford said last week that the company had not found elevated levels of carbon monoxide in “regular” Ford Explorers.
Auburn Police Department Sgt. Scott Mills told CNN the officer involved in the apparent collision on Wednesday was not injured. Mills stressed all information was preliminary but said the officer seems to have briefly lost consciousness while driving, and a carbon monoxide gas leak in his black Ford Explorer may have been to blame.
Mills said that carbon monoxide levels in the car involved in the incident read at 13, and a level 10 is “dangerous, possibly fatal.” The carbon monoxide in the officer’s body was a level 4, Mills said.
Ford said in a statement Wednesday that it’s working with Auburn police “to inspect their vehicles and modifications made to them.”
The company said its investigation into issues with police vehicles is “ongoing.”
After Austin police pulled all 446 of its SUVs off the road, Ford said it it will “cover the costs of specific repairs in every Police Interceptor Utility that may have carbon monoxide concerns. ”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also investigating and has been looking to determine how widespread issues with the Ford Explorer SUVs may be. The agency recently expanded its investigation into 1.3 million Explorers from model years 2011-2017. NHTSA says that more than 2,700 complaints have been filed by people who believe they’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide while in the vehicles.
Problems with carbon monoxide had plagued Ford police vehicles in Austin for more than five months, prompting dozens of workers’ comp reports. At least 20 Austin officers who were tested had measurable levels of carbon monoxide their their systems.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can be deadly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is found in fumes produced by burning fuel in things like cars, trucks, stoves, lanterns, fireplaces and furnaces. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.