DRIGGS — The Teton County Sheriff is concerned carbon monoxide is leaking into some of his Ford patrol vehicles and he’s upset the automaker isn’t doing anything about the potential problem.
Sheriff Tony Liford’s office has three 2016 Ford Police Interceptor SUVs. The vehicles are just like the Ford Explorer only they are designed for law enforcement officers.
“We like these cars very much,” Liford tells EastIdahoNews.com. “It was probably the most affordable police package out there with an excellent warranty and decent gas mileage for an SUV.”
Newport Beach police officer Brian McDowell was driving this same type of vehicle when he passed out in his 2014 Ford Explorer and crashed into a tree.
“I just think, plus or minus one second and I maybe wouldn’t be here on this earth for my kids,” McDowell told CBS News.
CBS News reports McDowell had no drugs or alcohol in his system and doctors couldn’t find any medical reason why he blacked out.
Then the officer learned hundreds of drivers had complained about exhaust, which contains carbon monoxide, leaking into the cabin of Ford Explorers.
EastIdahoNews.com discovered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation last July and so far more than 400 people have filed complaints.
“What’s concerning to me is we got no notification from Ford that this was a problem,” Liford says. “I would expect notifications to law enforcement agencies since this is such a popular vehicle.”
Last week, Liford installed carbon monoxide detectors in all of his vehicles. When a dangerous level of the colorless, odorless gas enters the SUV, a high-pitched alarm sounds.
“Since then we’ve had two of the 2016 Interceptor monitors go off,” Liford says. “When they go off, the deputies roll down their windows and wait for the beeping to stop.”
Ford Police Interceptor SUVs are used in almost every law enforcement agency in east Idaho.
The Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office has 14.
The Idaho Falls Police Department has 23.
The Rexburg Police Department has 10.
The St. Anthony Police Department has 6.
The Bingham County Sheriff’s Office has 2.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office has 7.
When the Madison County Sheriff’s Office learned about the potential carbon monoxide problem last week, Chief Deputy Bart Quayle says detectors were purchased for their vehicles.
“I’m disappointed in Ford for not contacting law enforcement agencies – even with just a heads up or a warning,” Liford says.
EastIdahoNews.com emailed Ford for a response to the complaints. Our messages were not returned but in a statement to USA today last month, the automaker said:
“We take the safety of our customers very seriously and will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation, as we always do. In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers. While it poses no safety risk, customers can and are encouraged to contact their local Ford dealer to address any concerns. ”
Liford says he has contacted the Idaho Sheriff’s Association so other law enforcement agencies are aware of the issue. He’s hoping to hear an explanation from Ford soon.
“They know who has these,” Liford says. “It’s not like it’s a mystery. They know who has these cars.”
Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Holly Yan and Faith Karimi, CNN
Mike Price and Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com