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News Break

06/18/2003 11:21:42 EST

Family Sues Over Trooper Squad Car Death
The family of a state trooper who was killed last month in a squad car
fire sued Ford Motor
Co., blaming the blaze in part on the location of the car's fuel tank.

A similar lawsuit was filed by a man who was sitting next to Micheal
Newton after the
trooper pulled him over and was injured in the wreck.

The lawsuits, filed Tuesday in Jackson County by Newton's family and
Michael Nolte of
Leawood, Kan., were the latest claims against Ford over the design of
the Crown Victoria
Police Interceptor.

Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley said she couldn't comment on the suits
but said the cars are
not defective.

She said deaths attributed to the fuel tank's location - between the
rear axle and rear
bumper - were instead a result of the high speeds at which patrol cars
have been struck
alongside highways.

"The issue is the really unique use of the vehicle," Kinley said.

Newton, 25, was killed May 22 when his parked patrol car was struck by
a pickup that was
towing a flatbed trailer on Interstate 70 in western Missouri.

Passersby were able to pull Nolte from the car, but Newton was pinned
and burned to death.

Since 1983, at least 14 officers have died when the gas tanks of their
Crown Victorias
caught fire after the cars were hit from behind.

The suits, which seek unspecified damages, also name the company that
owned the pickup
truck, saying its driver was negligent.

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