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Highway Patrol Installs Trunk Packs Around Cars' Fuel Tanks

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The federal government says they are safe, but the North Carolina Highway Patrol is not taking any chances with the Ford Crown Victoria. The Highway Patrol is making the cars safer after fiery wrecks killed more than a dozens officers nationwide.

State Trooper

John Duncan

died in January 2001 when his cruiser exploded into flames. Duncan crashed after losing control during a high-speed chase in Cumberland County. His wife sued the Ford Motor Co. claiming a vehicle defect caused the fire.

Officials say similar crashes and fires have killed at least a dozen officers across the country. They started when something pierced the fuel tanks after a collision.

The Highway Patrol announced Wednesday it will install more than 600 "trunk packs" in the cruisers to protect the gas tanks. Although it will not cover all 1,500 vehicles, officials say it is a start.

The shields will be installed in cars that work the interstate. Officials say the process will be complete by mid-August. The Highway Patrol is looking into purchasing Kevlar panels for the rest of the cars.

Federal investigators ruled the Crown Victoria meets safety standards. Still, Ford offered to install safety shields around the gas tanks. The Crown Victoria accounts for 80 percent of the highway patrol's fleet.

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