MODESTO, Calif. — In May 2017, Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Garner and Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson were killed in a fiery crash in Modesto. Both died on impact.
An investigation by the CHP's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) revealed Garner crashed his vehicle because of a health-related condition. However, a civil lawsuit filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court contends Garner and Johnson both died from defects in their Ford Explorer Police Interceptor Utility Vehicle "which allowed exhaust and other gases, including lethal amounts of carbon monoxide, to enter the passenger compartment of the vehicle."
"Ford should have recalled these vehicles and they didn't," said Attorney Paul Matiasic of the San Francisco based The Matiasic Firm, P.C. "And, so part of this lawsuit is to force forward to take a corrective action and not put other families in this type of position."
On the day of the crash, Garner and Johnson were on their way to file a report on a burglary call. Surveillance video from a nearby business captured the patrol car going at a high rate of speed before it slammed into a dumpster inside a junkyard.
According to the lawsuit, Garner’s "blood carboxyhemoglobin saturation level was determined via autopsy to be 19 percent. Decedent Johnson’s blood carboxyhemoglobin saturation level was determined via autopsy to be 27 percent. Both of these saturation levels are alarmingly high and toxic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a saturation level of 2 percent for nonsmokers, such as Decedents, strongly supports a diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning."
In July 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating 154 complaints of exhaust odors entering Ford Explorer vehicles from the model years 2011-2015. That includes modified Explorers known as Police Interceptor Utility vehicles.
In a statement, Ford said then:
"We take the safety of our customers very seriously and will cooperate with NHTSA on this investigation as we always do. In rare circumstances, there have been instances where customers detected an exhaust odor in Explorers. While it poses no safety risk, customers can and are encouraged to contact their local Ford dealer to address any concerns."
Regarding the lawsuit, Ford issued this statement:
“Our condolences go out to the families affected by this tragic accident. In their investigation, neither the Stanislaus County Coroner nor the California Highway Patrol’s Multi-Disciplinary Accident Investigation Team identified carbon monoxide poisoning as a contributing factor in the crash.”
The Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department now supplies its vehicles with carbon monoxide detectors.
Price Ford of Turlock is also named as a defendant.
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