Four police officers in Auburn, Massachusetts, were hospitalized and 10 cruisers pulled from service due to high levels of carbon monoxide, officials announced Wednesday.
Three of the officers have since been released and the entire police force has now been ordered to go for testing.
Shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, a police officer passed out while driving and rear-ended another car.
NBC Boston's Investigators were the first to confirm that the officer and the cruiser both had high levels of carbon monoxide.
The Auburn Fire Department tested the levels inside each of the Auburn Police Department's cruisers, finding nine additional cruisers with high levels of carbon monoxide. The public works chief's vehicle and a deputy fire chief's vehicle were also taken out of service.
This has become an issue with Ford Explorer police cruisers recently, and in Austin, Texas, the department has pulled over 400 cruisers from use.
Auburn Police Chief Andrew Sluckis said after the vehicles tested positive, all officers who were in the vehicles were tested, and two other officers were hospitalized as a result.
"As a result of testing, we discovered low level readings in the single digits to 39 and 40, and as a result of that, several vehicles in our fleet have since been taken out of service," Sluckis said.
He added, "It’s very scary. We hadn’t had any issues until today. No one experienced any signs of symptoms of co poisoning. But when the fire department tested the levels in his cruiser they were elevated.”
A Ford Motor Company representative told the police chief that engineers in Massachusetts are working on this issue and will be arriving at the Auburn Police Department later Wednesday or Thursday.
Auburn city officials are looking for a solution to another carbon monoxide problem after their plan to install detectors on Thursday stalled when the detectors were discovered to be out of stock.
"They're going to look at our fleet," to pinpoint the cause of the carbon monoxide leak, Sluckis said.
"Safety is our top priority and we are concerned for those involved," Ford said in a statement Wednesday. "We are working with the Auburn Police Department and have a team in Massachusetts on the way to inspect their vehicles and modifications made to them."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week expanded its investigation into complaints of exhaust fumes inside Ford Explorer SUVs to include more than 1.3 million Explorers from the 2011 through 2017 model years.
The agency made the move after finding more than 2,700 complaints of exhaust odors in the passenger compartment and fears of carbon monoxide in an investigation that started a year ago. Among the complaints were three crashes and 41 injuries, mostly loss of consciousness, nausea and headaches.
Many of the complaints came from police departments, which use the Police Interceptor version of the Explorer in patrol fleets. Previous police complaints included two crashes with injuries and another injury allegation due to carbon monoxide exposure.