Austin officer undergoing hyperbaric treatments after CO poisoning

Austin Police Department Ford Explorer (KXAN/File Photo)
Austin Police Department Ford Explorer with possible carbon monoxide. March 18, 2017 (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin police officer who suffered carbon monoxide poisoning from his patrol car is undergoing hyperbaric chamber treatments, says the Austin Police Association. The agency says the sergeant needs the treatment to “remove toxins from his body.”

After last weekend’s incident, the Austin Police Department announced they are installing carbon monoxide detectors in their entire fleet of nearly 400 Ford Explorers.

The fumes leaking into the cabin are an issue Ford Motor Company has been aware of for several years – even issuing a recommended fix in 2014 and another last summer. According to reports, the issue seems to occur while accelerating with the air conditioning active and in circulating mode. The vehicles in question are the Ford Explorer model year 2011 to 2015.

Prior to the recent incident, APD says they received two other reports of possible CO fumes in the patrol vehicles. One officer reported becoming lightheaded while driving a patrol SUV; the other was for an odor that a sergeant was worried about while operating his patrol SUV.

In a letter to the Austin City Council and city manager, APA President Ken Casaday is asking for the Ford Explorer in Saturday’s incident be sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for an independent test rather than being sent back to Ford Motor Company. He says Ford has “proven that they are not taking this deadly threat to our officers seriously.”

Other Police Departments

Law enforcement agencies across the country have Ford Explorers in their fleet and the agencies in Central Texas are no different. Here’s a list of how the departments are handling the CO issue.

Austin ISD PD: They have 16 Ford Explorers that fall under the affected years of 2011-2015. They’re currently looking into CO monitors but have experienced no problems so far.

Cedar Park PD: They have 35 Ford Explorers. The department has installed CO detectors that will be changed out periodically per the prescribed schedule.

Hays County Sheriff’s Office: They only have one in service that fits the recall and they have made arrangements for monitoring the carbon monoxide issues. All other models are newer Explorers.

Pflugerville PD: The city has two 2016 Ford Explorers, none that fall into the years 2011-2015. The rest of the fleet is made up of Ford Escapes.

Round Rock PD: They have 14 Explorers that fall into the years 2011-2015. The agency is not installing CO detectors at this time, but they’ll continue to monitor this situation and adjust accordingly, if necessary.

San Marcos PD: They currently have 27 Ford Explorers in its fleet. The department has purchased enough CO detectors for installation in all of its patrol vehicles regardless of manufacturer due to the nature of police work (high vehicle idle times, etc.)

University of Texas PD: They currently have 17 Ford Explorers that fall into the years 2011-2015. The department had CO detectors installed in the past two days. Two to three of their Ford Explorers have been identified by VIN and are being sent back to Ford to be checked.

Travis County Sheriff’s Office: They have the latest model in their fleet, but they’re still installing CO detectors in all of their Explorers.

Williamson County Sheriff’s Office: They currently have five Ford Explorers. While they haven’t had any issues, they are looking into installing CO detectors.

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