YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) - A state trooper and a motorist were killed
Thursday on the New York State Thruway when a sport utility vehicle
rammed into the trooper's cruiser causing the cars to burst into
flames, authorities said.
Six people were injured in the accident, at least five of whom
were in serious condition, said State Trooper Jesse Temple, a
police spokesman.
The incident occurred at about 8:35 p.m. when a Jeep Cherokee
traveling northbound on Interstate 87 in Yonkers hit a car while
trying to switch lanes, Temple said.
The Jeep careened off the car and veered into the right shoulder
of the Thruway, plowing into the rear of the trooper's cruiser.
At the time, the trooper was in his vehicle preparing an
accident report for a minor collision that involved two cars also
pulled off to the side of the road.
The impact from the Jeep triggered a chain reaction, involving
the police cruiser, the two vehicles from the initial accident and
a tow truck that was preparing to remove one of the vehicles.
The Jeep and the trooper's car, a Ford Crown Victoria, exploded
in flames, killing the trooper, 33, and the driver of the Jeep.
Three passengers in the Jeep and the two drivers involved in the
initial accident were in serious condition and were taken to
Westchester County Medical Center and Lawrence Hospital, Temple
said.
A sixth person was also injured, although police did not know
the victim's condition. The identities of the trooper and the
others involved in the accident were not released.
Police departments have complained that Ford Crown Victorias are
prone to catch fire when struck from the rear at high speed. At
least a dozen officers across the country have been killed in fiery
crashes in Crown Victorias since 1983.
In September, Ford agreed to pay for the installation of shields
around the gas tanks on police-issued Crown Victorias. Some 350,000
police cruisers across the country were to be retrofitted - about
80 percent of police cars on the road.
State Trooper Temple said he did know whether the cruiser
belonging to the officer had been retrofitted.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)