By Arthur H. Rotstein
TUCSON, Ariz. — A woman who had been arrested and placed in the back of a police cruiser was fatally burned Wednesday when another car slammed into the parked cruiser, igniting both vehicles and another cruiser in front, authorities said.
It was the latest death in the past decade attributed to a fuel tank rupture in a Ford Motor Co.-made Crown Victoria during a rear-end collision.
Lt. James Warriner, an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman, said investigators are looking into why the gas tank exploded this time since both Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors at the scene were equipped with fire suppression systems that deployed.
An officer stopped the 45-year-old motorist at about 1:15 a.m., arrested her and put her in the back of a cruiser along Interstate 10 northwest of Tucson, Warriner said.
Another westbound car traveling at least 65 mph then drifted into the emergency lane and plowed into the back of that vehicle, Warriner said.
He said the cruiser ignited instantly, and the officers were unable to rescue the woman inside because of the intensity and heat of the fire.
The impact pushed the first cruiser's trunk into its back seat, and rammed the car into the patrol cruiser in front, severely damaging its rear end as well. The second cruiser continued the chain reaction, striking the woman's parked vehicle.
The officers were able to remove the driver of the moving car, which vaulted over a guard rail and sustained fire and crash damage, Warriner said.
He said the 28-year-old driver was taken to a hospital with undetermined injuries.
There have been no charges, with the investigation continuing, Warriner said.
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Over the past decade, Crown Victorias have been the subject of significant controversy and lawsuits over numerous rear-end collisions that ruptured fuel tanks and caused horrific fires, killing or disfiguring a number of police officers and others. Since 2005, Ford has installed a powder-emitting device designed to suppress fire in its Crown Victorias.