SUV Hits Trooper's Car in Fatal N.Y. Wreck

12/20/2002 YONKERS, N.Y. (AP) -- A sport utility vehicle rammed into a state trooper's cruiser on the side of the road and burst into flames, killing the trooper and driver and injuring six others, at least five seriously.

Thursday's accident began when the Jeep Cherokee crashed into another car while trying to change lanes, said State Trooper Jesse Temple, a police spokesman. The Jeep careened off the car and plowed into the back of the cruiser.

The impact triggered a chain reaction and the two vehicles exploded in flames, killing the trooper and driver of the Jeep. Three passengers in the Jeep and the two other drivers were in serious condition, Temple said.

A sixth person was also injured, although police did not know the victim's condition.

The police cruiser was a Ford Crown Victoria -- a car that police departments have alleged 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.