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Austin police pull Ford Explorers off the road amid carbon monoxide fears

Ford Explorers pulled off road
Ford Explorers pulled off road 02:01

The city of Austin decided to pull its entire fleet of Ford Explorers off the road after two more police officers were found with carbon monoxide (CO) in their blood, bringing the number of officers who have fallen ill to 20.

"This is my family," interim police chief Brian Manley said Friday. "I stand here confident that we're making the right decision today based on what we know with the carbon monoxide exposure issue that we've had and the impacts that it has had on our workforce."

Just hours earlier, federal regulators expanded their investigation into reports that exhaust fumes were leaking into the passenger cabin of Ford Explorers. An estimated 1.3 million of the vehicles, model years 2011 to 2017, could be affected.

Austin police are pulling their entire fleet of Ford Explorers after 20 officers were found with carbon monoxide in their blood CBS News

Investigators found police cruisers with cracked exhaust manifolds and said "preliminary testing" suggested "CO levels may be elevated in certain driving scenarios."

And it's not just police. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says it has received more than 2,700 complaints -- many from civilians -- leading to reports of at least 41 injuries and three crashes.

Regulators have known about many of the complaints for nearly a year but didn't release the numbers until now. 

And despite the growing list of reports, investigators say they still can't find solid evidence the injuries or accidents were caused by the carbon monoxide leaks.

Ford Explorers probe expands 02:52

That doesn't sit well with Capt. James Thibodeaux of Henderson, Louisiana, who says one of his officers passed out behind the wheel and crashed into a ditch. 

"When she was treated at the hospital, we requested testing for carbon monoxide, which is a special test, and her levels came out near lethal," Thibodeaux said.

The NHTSA would not agree to an interview Saturday, and neither would Ford. The automaker says it has not found elevated levels of CO in regular Explorers and says it will cover the cost repairs to police interceptor version of the Explorer.

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