On August 18th, 2021, deputies from the Windham County Sheriff’s Office were performing rolling road-blocks on Interstate 91 in Rockingham, Vermont, to assist with the Rockingham bridge replacement project. Following the second to last rolling roadblock of the day, the deputies were traveling southbound on I91 returning to the staging U-turn near mile marker 30.8. The operator of cruiser #351, a 2016 Ford Interceptor SUV, heard a loud snapping noise from the rear of the vehicle and the vehicle began to swerve. The operator attempted to recover control but entered into the median where the cruiser rolled over onto its roof. The operator, Deputy Jonathan Cheney, was wearing his seatbelt and escaped the incident without injury. Upon initial inspection of the vehicle, the rear passenger toe link was broken. The crash is being investigated by the Vermont State Police. The Windham County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an internal investigation regarding its policies, procedures, and practices.
Upon a query with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), we learned the vehicle had an outstanding recall issued in October 2020 (Recall # 20V675) for risk of a rear toe link fracture. NHTSA records also show a technical service bulletin (TSB) issued on June 5, 2020. Upon review of the department’s recall notice file, we found no such recall record. Ford issued a press release on July 16, 2021 regarding a similar recall (Recall # 21V537) indicating notice would be provided to owners the week of August 23, 2021.
Reviewing the vehicle’s maintenance records, it had been serviced by Ford for an unrelated recall in the beginning of October, 2020. It is unclear if the TSB was addressed during that servicing. The vehicle underwent a state inspection in April 2021, where it failed due to a mild exhaust leak. The exhaust leak was not deemed a safety hazard, but an environmental one. The failed exhaust component was remedied and passed inspection the following day. The Vermont State Inspection Manual includes a steps for ensuring safety and includes inspections of the component that failed in this crash. The Vermont Inspection Report (VIR), issued through the Department of Motor Vehicle’s automated inspection system as part of the annual inspection as part of the April inspection, identified an outstanding safety recall (20V675), but was permitted to pass inspection. The indicator on the VIR failed to state that it was for the toe link, though campaigns associated with the model for extended coverage on the catalytic converter, front door trim panel repair, and canister purge valve leaks were succinctly stated.
We’ve begun having all of our Ford SUV’s inspected by Ford to determine if this problem exists in any other car.
We have crosschecked all of our vehicles against NHTSA’s recall database to ensure no open recalls exist. As of this morning, we identified at least one other vehicle exhibiting similar wear and had it repaired. With the prevalence of the vehicle in Vermont, we’ve shared the recall with Vermont law enforcement agencies to minimize the safety impact that may exist.
Sheriff Mark Anderson