Austin looking into fourth reported carbon monoxide leak in patrol car

City officials are looking into whether deadly carbon monoxide possibly seeped into another Austin police patrol car.

Police officials confirmed Monday that last week, an officer reported that a newly installed warning system in the Ford Explorer he was driving activated while he was on patrol. The officer stopped the vehicle, notified workers for the city’s fleet services department and did not become sick during the incident, Assistant Police Chief Ely Reyes said.

The incident renewed concerns about the safety of the department’s Explorers. In March, an officer became seriously ill and police officials said he was exposed to carbon monoxide and was hospitalized. That officer is still recovering from the incident and has not returned to work.

The case prompted police to install warning systems in their cars that activate when the gas is inside the passenger compartment of the car.

Immediately after that incident, police also said that they had documented two other cases in which officers reported exhaust fumes leaking into their cars.

“We wanted to make sure we provided an extra layer of protection,” Reyes said Monday. “If officers are going to have the potential to be exposed, it is in the best interest and the safety of our officers to provide some kind of security.”

Ford Explorers have been under national scrutiny for reports of exhaust fumes leaking 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.

Reyes said since the illness of the Austin officer, other departments nationally have reached out for input about how officials can best protect officers.

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