Police officer who passed out, crashed Ford Explorer was exposed to carbon monoxide

AUBURN, Mass. — Police in Massachusetts say an officer who passed out behind the wheel of his cruiser and crashed has tested positive for exposure to carbon monoxide (CO). 

Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis said Wednesday both the cruiser and officer had tested positive for the gas. Sluckis says the officer rear-ended another vehicle. He was taken to a local hospital. The officer’s levels were not near a “deadly level.” The driver wasn’t badly hurt. 

Sluckis says a second officer also tested positive for carbon monoxide and was hospitalized. 

He says the vehicles involved are Ford Explorer SUVs. Testing has identified carbon monoxide in nine department vehicles, which have been pulled out of service. Carbon monoxide detectors have been ordered. 

A spokesperson for Ford told CBS News it would be “premature to draw conclusions from what happened [Wednesday] in Auburn,” noting the low level of CO detected.

In response to the incident, the Boston Police Department decided to test all of their Ford Explorers for carbon monoxide, CBS Boston reports.  

Wednesday’s crash was the latest incident involving officers being exposed to carbon monoxide in police cruisers. Ford officials have said there could be dangerous leaks in some of vehicles that have been modified for police use, which could cause carbon monoxide to enter an SUV’s cab.

Last week, the Austin police department in Texas pulled its entire fleet of Explorers off the road after 20 officers were found to have elevated CO levels in their blood. Austin officials said more than 60 officers have reported health problems since February.

On Wednesday, the city of Galveston, Texas, announced it was taking more than 30 Explorers out of service. The Washington State Patrol also said it had sent a half-dozen of its Ford sport-utility vehicles to the dealership for repairs 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said last week it has received more than 2,700 complaints about CO exposure in Explorers — many from civilians — leading to reports of at least 41 injuries and three crashes. 

Federal investigators have expanded their investigation into CO issues in Explorers. An estimated 1.3 million of the vehicles, model years 2011 to 2017, could be affected. 

A Ford spokeswoman says the company has not found elevated carbon monoxide levels in non-police Ford Explorers. 

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