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Crown Victoria Police Interceptor Cleared in Missouri Highway Patrol Crash

April 12, 2004

The gas tank of a Missouri state highway patrolman’s Ford Crown Victoria was not to blame when the cruiser burst into flames last year after being slammed from behind during an Interstate 70 traffic stop, killing the law enforcer, federal investigators have ruled, according to an Associated Press report on April 5. Virtually any type of vehicle struck from behind at high speeds could have suffered damage similar to that sustained by Trooper Michael Newton’s cruiser, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said. The gas tanks in Crown Victorias have been scrutinized in recent years after a number of fiery wrecks that killed law enforcers, but NHTSA said the gas tank of Newton’s vehicle was not compromised in the collision. “There wasn’t any evidence of a safety-related defect,” Rae Tyson, a NHTSA spokesman, said Wednesday. Newton, had pulled over a Kansas driver on Interstate 70 near Odessa in western Missouri and was parked along the highway’s eastbound shoulder on May 22, 2003, when his car was hit from behind by a truck. Flames engulfed the patrol car and killed the trapped Newton, whose door was wedged shut by the crash’s impact, federal investigators said. The investigator’s report said the fire began after something still unknown ignited gasoline that apparently spewed from the vehicle’s filler tube, which was severed in the crash. The filler tube — the channel where gasoline is pumped into the gas tank during refueling — could have become disconnected in any type of vehicle struck from behind at that speed, the investigators concluded.
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