Austin police say they’ve had three incidents in which officers reported that they smelled exhaust fumes leaking into the cabin of their car, including one on Saturday in which a sergeant almost passed out after inhaling carbon monoxide.
The incidents come after Ford issued a technical service bulletin — which is less urgent than a recall — in December noting that the car company “had some concerns about possible exhaust leaking into some of the Ford Explorer vehicles, namely models between 2011 and 2015,” Austin police Assistant Chief Ely Reyes said.
Reyes said the three incidents involved two Austin police vehicles and happened within the past couple of months.
The sergeant involved in Saturday’s incident is the only one who has been treated for symptoms related to carbon monoxide. The officer was out on the road in Southwest Austin when just after midnight he “felt the symptoms coming on and called for help,” interim Police Chief Brian Manley has said.
The officer was taken by ambulance to a hospital and was later released.
In response, the city has purchased 400 stickers that change color when they come into contact with carbon monoxide and will place them in all of its Ford Explorers, Reyes said. City staff members will later install carbon monoxide alarms in the vehicles.
Officials will send the two police vehicles with reported problems to Ford to be inspected and make any necessary repairs, Reyes said. Police officials are not planning to have any of the department’s other 360 Ford Explorers inspected or cancel a pending order for nine new Ford Explorers, he said.
“We are hopeful that with the short-term and long-term solutions we have in place we’ll ensure the safety of our officers and that our city fleet will continue working with Ford on identifying the issues and getting our vehicles the repairs needed,” Reyes said.
Ford Explorers have been under national scrutiny for possibly allowing exhaust fumes to leak inside the SUVs. According to published reports, gases are most likely to be released when the car is accelerating or when the air conditioning is on.
In one case that has received recent national attention, a Newport Beach, Calif., police officer claims he was severely injured when he crashed his patrol unit into a light pole. He has said doctors could find no other reason for the crash.