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Ford offers possible explanation for carbon monoxide leaks

Carbon monoxide leaks
Ford offers possible explanation for carbon monoxide leaks 02:16

HENDERSON, La. -- Ford Motor Company came up with a possible explanation Tuesday for carbon monoxide seeping into the Police Interceptor model of the Explorer SUV. 

Officers in several states claim they were overcome by the fumes.

Officer Brandy Sickey CBS News

Henderson, Louisiana, officer Brandy Sickey says she blacked out behind the wheel of her Ford Explorer police cruiser in April -- and crashed.

"I could've killed somebody," Sickey told CBS News. "I could've died. I could've got killed. I could've had somebody in my back seat transporting them to the jail could've killed them. Because when it when it hit me I didn't even know I was in a crash."

According to medical records from after the crash, doctors diagnosed Sickey with "carbon monoxide poisoning."

Tests showed potentially dangerous levels of the gas in her blood -- even more than two hours later. She told us that it was near fatal.

Officer Brandy Sickey's medical report and injuries. CBS News

Yet, federal regulators said last month -- despite reports of three crashes and 41 injuries in 2011-2017 Ford Explorers -- that there's no "actual evidence" they "were the result of carbon monoxide poisoning."

Tuesday, Ford released new images that may explain how carbon monoxide is seeping into police Explorers. They show unsealed holes near the muffler and rear of cruisers. The holes were made after purchase to install emergency equipment like lights.

Ford Motor Company

Company engineers are making repairs to police units at no cost. They're now in Austin, Texas, attempting to fix some of the city's 400-plus Explorers taken off the road.

Ford is also investigating cracked exhaust manifolds in police Explorers. Manifolds carry exhaust away from the engine. But Ford believes that is an unrelated issue.

Officer Sickey is back at work in a new Explorer, but she's suing Ford.

Officer Sickey in a new Ford Explorer police cruiser. CBS News

"We already have a dangerous job to be worried about if our carbon monoxide detector is going to go off," Sickey said. "So I think Ford needs to take care of the problem and fix it."

The medical records she provided show the presence of medications that she says were prescribed. Doctors CBS News talked to say they don't know if those medications could have been factors in the crash.

Ford maintains that safety is their top priority, but declined to comment on her case, and regulators said they'd get back to us.

On Thursday, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration responded to CBS News' request for comment about the Sickey case. The request was sent on Monday. 

"NHTSA does not discuss ongoing investigations, and cannot discuss or disclose personal medical information provided to the agency," the response said. "However, you've been receiving the agency's statements and are aware that NHTSA is very concerned about this potential safety problem and its effects on civilians and law enforcement, which is why the agency is aggressively investigating this matter. Please encourage your viewers to continue to reach out to NHTSA."

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