Woman dies when car crashes into DPS cruiser

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Jun. 3, 2009


by Maria Polletta – Jun. 3, 2009
The Arizona Republic

A DUI suspect sitting in the back of a Department of Public Safety patrol car was killed when another car slammed into the vehicle, leaving the patrol car in flames on a Tucson highway early Wednesday morning.

Faith Mascolino, 45, was driving her 2004 GMC Yukon westbound on the Interstate 10 around 1:15 a.m. when a DPS officer pulled her over to the emergency lane suspecting she might be intoxicated, DPS Officer Quentin Mehr said.

During the traffic stop, a DPS officer in a second patrol car arrived to assist, parking behind the other two vehicles next to a guardrail, according to authorities. Mascolino was arrested and put in the back of the second DPS patrol car.

According to preliminary reports, both officers were outside of their vehicles processing the female driver when a 2004 Nissan slammed into the patrol car containing Mascolino, which burst into flames. That car then crashed into the first patrol car, which crashed into Mascolino’s own vehicle.

DPS officers were unable to rescue Mascolino in time due to “intense fire, heat, and impact damage,” the reports said. She died at the scene. The driver of the Nissan, 28-year-old Robert Gallivan, was taken to an area hospital for treatment after his vehicle “vaulted over the guardrail,” also sustaining extensive fire damage, according to authorities.

One DPS officer was injured when he jumped over a guardrail to avoid the impact, reports said. His injuries were not serious.

DPS authorities stressed that this account may be revised later as investigation into the incident may take weeks or months to complete. The results of the investigation will be submitted to the county attorney, who will decide what, if any, charges Gallivan will face.

Both patrol cars involved in the crash were Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, years 2006 and 2008.

Crown Victorias were thrown into a negative light in the early 2000s when 14 police officers in the United States burned to death after their patrol cars were rear-ended. Three of the officers killed were from Arizona, and another Phoenix officer was seriously disabled from burns after his Crown Victoria caught fire in 2001.

The location of the Crown Victoria’s fuel tank apparently makes it susceptible to rupture upon rear impact. Ford Motor Co. announced in late 2003 that a fire suppression system would be offered for 2005 models and beyond.

DPS officials maintain that both cars involved in Wednesday’s accident had been outfitted with the fire suppression systems and that the systems deployed.