Euclid, OH, police officer George Brentar, 49, was on radar detail chasing a speeder when his Crown Victoria patrol car hydroplaned, struck a utility pole and burst into flames on Oct. 10, killing the father of two. Such explosive patrol-car crashes are happening across the U.S., says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Safety advocates and police unions say car-fire deaths in Ford Crown Victorias can and should be prevented. Many agencies are installing fire-suppression systems on cruisers to prevent officers from dying in fires after crashes. The fire systems coat fuel tanks with extinguishing powder and stop the tanks from exploding into fireballs.
Ford counters that any cruiser involved in a high-speed crash runs the risk of catching fire. “It doesn’t matter what kind of car you are driving,” said a Ford spokesman. “If you are hit from behind at 60 to 90 mph, you are not going to walk away from the crash.” Texas attorney David Perry has represented 20 families in lawsuits involving fatal Crown Victoria fires, getting multimillion-dollar settlements from Ford. “Ford has the only cars made that have the gas tank in such a vulnerable location behind the rear axle,” Perry said. “Other manufacturers moved them to a better protected location. In the Crown Vic they are still using ’70s technology. The technology to make the cars safer has been available for years.” Ford has announced that it will no longer sell the Crown Victoria to the public after next year but still will offer the car to police and cab companies. Sales have declined with many police departments switching to faster Chevrolets. Ford estimates that 85 percent of all police cars in the nation are Crown Victorias, with about 350,000 patrolling the roads. The car exceeds national safety standards, he said.