"There was instant fire and flame. Within 10 seconds, there was no way to get him out." A Colorado Springs mother still has vivid memories her son's death in a terrible car fire. He was a police officer---killed in the line of duty.
Officer Patrick Metzler’s Ford Crown Victoria burst into flames after being hit from behind. It wasn't the first time a police officer had been burned in one of these cars. And many police departments, including Colorado Springs, still have these vehicles in their fleets.
Ford just recently settled several lawsuits. That includes one filed by Officer Metzler's mother, Pat, of Colorado Springs. She wants others to learn from the accident that took her son's life.
In October of 2002 Dallas, Texas police officer Patrick Metzler was killed when a drunk driver slammed into his patrol car as it sat on the side of the freeway. The driver was going 80 miles an hour. The accident caused a fire that killed Officer Metzler. "The horrific incident of the car blowing up and burning our son was more than any parent should have to deal with," says Pat Metzler.
After the accident, Pat sued the Ford Motor Company for wrongful death. "When you lose a son in this way, there's no question in your mind that your son died and he shouldn’t have."
The suit claimed that a design flaw causes the gas tanks in Crown Victoria models to leak when the car is hit from behind. Ford denies those claims, and refused to take responsibility for Officer Metzler's death. But just recently, the company reached a cash settlement with the Metzlers. "It doesn't make it easier and it's never gonna make it alright. I miss my son very much," says Pat.
Now she wants to make sure that no other police officer has to suffer the fate her son did. "What I really want them to do is correct the cars, if there's any out there."
The Colorado Springs Police Department has 213 Crown Victorias, but 199 of those have been modified to make them safer. The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has 21, but they plan to phase them out over the next three years. And locally, the Colorado State Patrol has 24. All have been modified.