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Old 12-21-2002, 08:39   #1 (permalink)
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Ford Crown Victoria investigated after trooper dies in crash

Saturday, December 21, 2002
By Jim Fitzgerald / Associated Press

YONKERS, N.Y. -- A state trooper filling out paperwork on the shoulder of the state Thruway was killed when his cruiser was hit from behind by an out-of-control SUV and both cars burst into flames.

The police car was a Ford Crown Victoria and the fiery crash renewed questions about whether the model, popular in police departments nationwide, is prone to explode when hit at high speeds from behind. Ford agreed three months ago to install gas tank shields in Crown Victoria police cruisers, but the dead trooper's car had not yet been retrofitted.

The driver of the SUV, a Jeep Cherokee that had been involved in another accident moments earlier, also died in Thursday's crash. Capt. Evelyn Mallard said he had been traveling "at a high rate of speed" and with a suspended license.

Six other people -- three young passengers in the Jeep, the drivers of the cars in the fender bender the trooper was writing about, and the tow truck operator who arrived to help them -- were seriously injured.

The dead were identified as Trooper Robert Ambrose, 31, who lived in Pearl River and was assigned to the state police barracks in Tarrytown, and Jason Bonney, 20, of White Plains. Bonney's license had been suspended because he failed to show up in court after a traffic infraction, State Police Capt. Frank Koehler said.

Autopsies were under way to determine whether the men were killed in the crash or by the ensuing flames, but witnesses said they saw the trooper struggling to get out of his crumpled, burning car.

Mike Lepratto, 27, of Yonkers, said he saw a police officer "smacking the window of the (trooper's) car with a shovel, trying to get him out." He said he heard bullets exploding in the cruiser as the flames engulfed the vehicle.

The trooper was not extricated from the wreckage for hours. Police officers snapped to attention and saluted as the body was taken away in a medical examiner's van.

There are about 350,000 Crown Victoria police cars in the country. Some departments have complained that the model is prone to fires when hit from behind at high speed -- Ambrose is the 13th officer to die in such fires since 1983. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in October that the car exceeds federal standards for fuel system safety.

Nevertheless, Ford agreed to pay for the installation of shields around the gas tanks on Crown Victoria police cars.

Koehler said state police cars are taking part in the retrofitting program but Ambrose's vehicle, a 2000 model,had not been done. He said he did not know how many state police cars had been revamped.

Mallard said the NHTSA was sending experts to examine the wrecks for clues to the explosion. Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said the car company was sending technicians as well.

The Ford and the Jeep were taken Friday morning to state police headquarters in Poughkeepsie for investigation, Mallard said.

Ambrose, a trooper for five years, was single and was survived by his parents, who live in Floral Park. A funeral is scheduled there for Monday; Gov. George Pataki plans to attend.

Mallard, his superior at the Tarrytown barracks, said Ambrose was "a goodhearted, fun-loving kind of guy ... a pleasure to be around." She described the mood at the barracks as "very mournful."

The chain-reaction crash began at about 8:35 p.m. Thursday near the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers when the Jeep, traveling north, hit a Nissan in the right lane, Mallard said.

The Jeep bounced off the car and veered onto the right shoulder of the Thruway, plowing into the rear of the trooper's cruiser, where Ambrose sat preparing an accident report for a minor collision involving two cars that had pulled off to the side of the road.

The impact from the Jeep triggered a chain reaction involving the police cruiser, the two vehicles from the initial accident and the tow truck. The drivers of the tow truck and the two cars in the earlier accident were standing by their vehicles when they were injured, Mallard said.
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Old 12-23-2002, 07:25   #2 (permalink)
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Dallas to sue Ford to get Crown Victoria test results

December 23, 2002
ASSOCIATED PRESS

DALLAS,TEXAS -- Following a police officer's death in a fiery crash, city officials want to get safety test results on Crown Victoria cruisers fitted with shields that protect the vehicle's gas tank.

Attorneys for the city of Dallas will sue Ford Motor Co. on Monday to obtain sworn testimony on the tests.

"We want information about the technology that they're testing right now. We know that they're testing alternative technology to see if these vehicles can be made safer," Dallas city attorney Madeleine Johnson said Friday.

The gas tank of the Crown Victoria is behind the rear axle, and can explode when the car is hit from the rear at a high speed.

On Thursday, a New York state trooper was killed when his Crown Victoria cruiser was hit from behind by an out-of-control sport utility vehicle. Both cars burst into flames.

Johnson said she had been trying for several weeks to get more information on the retrofitted Crown Victoria police cruisers.

"They're saying this information is confidential and they don't want to share this information with us right now," she said.

Ford officials did not immediately return telephone messages from The Associated Press early Saturday.

While Ford officials agreed to give access to vehicles used in crash tests, Johnson said she was told Friday that she would have to get specific safety information from the outcome of an Ohio class action lawsuit.

"I told them this is not soon enough -- this is a public safety issue," Johnson said.

Johnson said one test result released by Ford showed that a Crown Victoria with shields installed leaked more gas than is permitted by federal standards.

"We want to know why they think their vehicles are safe with these shields on," Johnson said.

Johnson also said Ford has been testing a bladder that can pla inside the gas tank to contain fuel when the tank is punctured.

Johnson said the bladder has been used in street racing vehicles, but wants to know why it has not been recommended for Crown Victorias.

Ford is paying to retrofit the 1,100.
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Old 12-25-2002, 19:12   #3 (permalink)
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