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Austintown Patrolman Linert testifies about fiery crash

Published: Thu, July 21, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Elise Franco



The fiery crash that landed Austintown Patrolman Ross Linert in a hospital burn unit left more than just physical damage.

Linert and his wife, Brenda, testified Wednesday at the jury trial of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit they filed against the Ford Motor Co.

The couple alleges in the lawsuit that the 2005 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor cruiser, which Linert occupied at the time of the crash in 2007, had a fuel tank that was improperly located behind its rear axle, without adequate shields or guards and without a fire-suppression system.

The crash left Linert in a hospital for weeks. He continues to suffer physical disabilities and depression.

Linert, who worked for APD for 11 years before the accident, said he remembers everything about that night, including the moments after the crash.

“I was dispatched to North Meridian Road to check on an intoxicated driver,” he said. “I then remember being struck from behind. I saw the headlights come, and it was instantaneous.”

Adrien N. Foutz, 25, of Girard, was convicted for rear-ending the cruiser Linert was driving Nov. 11, 2007, on Meridian Road at Interstate 680.

Foutz pleaded no contest to aggravated vehicular assault and served 19 months in prison. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.279 – more than three times the legal limit, crash investigators said.

Linert said after Foutz’s car hit his cruiser, his vehicle was pushed along the road and he began to see flames coming into the cabin of the cruiser.

“I was getting burned,” he said. “I knew I needed to get the heck out of the car, or I was going to die.”

After managing to get out of the car, Linert said he walked up to a sergeant who had arrived on scene and asked what happened.

“When I was in the ambulance, I remember asking them not to tell my mom because I didn’t want to bother her,” he said. “And I said to tell my wife I loved her, because at that point, I didn’t know what would happen to me.”

Brenda Linert said her husband was taken first to St. Elizabeth Health Center, then to Akron Children’s Hospital Burn Center. She said she wasn’t able to see him until several hours after the accident.

“He was still sedated and they were wrapping him with gauze,” she said. “It was the last time I could see his face for a very long time.”

Linert was sedated and on pain medications for 33 days, she said. He didn’t realize the severity of what had happened after he awoke, she said.

“He kept saying he wanted to go home right then,” she said.

Linert remained in the hospital for several more weeks undergoing skin-graft treatments and physical therapy.

Though he’s regained motion in both hands, he still has trouble moving his left. He’s also lost some vision in both eyes, according to testimony.

These challenges, and others, have kept Linert from doing the things he once loved — working on cars and returning to the Austintown police force.

He said he is able to do some household tasks and he’s grateful to coach his youngest son’s little league baseball team.

“My motor skills, I have trouble with stuff like that,” he said. “The biggest thing for me was being able to get a baseball glove on again and play baseball with my kids.”


1Wapiti(139 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Ford has always weighted the placement of a part/repair vs. any type of court costs. Ford, as with all the car manufacturers, feel it's "less expensive" to pay court costs and jury awards than to just fix the problem. All one has to do is look at the Ford Pinto. For want of a $5.00 part, Ford let the Pinto become the exploding car. All the car companies know NO moral responsibility for the vehicles they manufacture.
I pray Officer Linert and his family receives every dime possible for Ford's deliberate and knowing production of another exploding vehicle.

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2UNCOMMONSENSE(420 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

It is ridiculous to believe that Ford "deliberate and knowing" [sic] produced a faultly product that would cost them millions of dollars. At 116 mph (81mph net) the only one responsible for this explosion is the idiot that crashed into his car.

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3Wapiti(139 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Uncommon, do some research. Ford knew about the Pinto exploding unon a rear end collision. For want of a part that cost Ford $5.00, they chose not to put it on the car. This was proven in a court of law. A young girl had both hands burned off, lost her ears and more, due to a rear end crash. Ford could have prevented it. They didn't. Linert deserves everything he can get from Ford.

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4Shakesspeare(12 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I wasn't aware officer Linert was driving a Pinto.

What happened to him was awful but

While the car has been highly rated for safety, there was some controversy and lawsuits in the 1990s and 2000s over Ford Crown Victoria gas tank leaks after certain types of high speed impacts, specifically when being hit in the rear end at high speeds. These impacts did cause fuel tank failures in the Crown Victoria.

The reports that the cars were more prone to fires during a rear collision was a simple combination of three things. First, most law enforcement agencies rely heavily on the Crown Victoria as their primary vehicle, meaning that any police-related auto accident is very likely to involve a Crown Victoria. Second, the accidents occurred as the result of the officers intentionally parking their vehicles close to active traffic to shield a stopped motorist - something most civilians would never do. Third, the impacting vehicle was often traveling at, or above, the posted legal limit.

The condition was exacerbated by police equipment installers drilling over the package tray in the luggage compartment. Due to the gas tank's orientation, drilling through the package tray may result in drilling into the gas tank. Installers also used screws set directly into the bulkhead and facing the fuel tank. In the event of a high-energy collision, these screws could be forced into the tank, both rupturing the tank and possibly acting as a spark source. Long bolts for mounting heavier equipment were also directly suspect. The manufacturer provided an aftermarket shield to help prevent these items from puncturing the tank during impact. Further, many investigations, both performed by federal/state agencies, and the police department themselves, have found that removable items in the trunk were improperly stowed. These items became tank-piercing projectiles during the rear-collision scenarios. Ford's second solution came in the form of a recall kit including patterns to mark unsafe areas in the luggage compartment. Also included were rubberized kevlar and hard ballistic nylon shields for the differential cover lower shock bolts. They also included a kevlar-based trunk liner. Ford used similar kits on early-1980s model passenger vehicles. For 2005 and newer models, Ford offers an optional on-board fire-suppression system for the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor units. However, Ford does cite several system limitations regarding fuel loss and impact speeds.

Despite numerous court cases charging Ford with partial liability for fires caused in accidents, the company has never been found liable in a Crown Victoria accident.

Notably, only the Ford Crown Victoria and new Ford police car have been certified for high speed rear impact collisions, adding credibility to Ford's statement that fiery crashes are a result of extreme and unfortunate situations.

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5Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Just thank God it was not a Toyota he would have been dead for sure

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6UNCOMMONSENSE(420 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

Well said Shakesspeare. It has been documented that if the gas tank were placed in front of the rear axle, it would be more dangerous since the majority of crashes are side impact.

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7Wapiti(139 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

I pray Linert receives millions on this. Ford is guilty. They could have repaired the problem on the Crown Vics but waited until someone sued them to do it. These companies do have a moral obligation to produce a safe vehicle. In this instance and with the Pinto, Ford didn't do that.
If it had be yourself Shakesspear or Uncommon that had been burned you'd be crying a very different tune.

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8TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years, 6 months ago

"Ford has always weighted the placement of a part/repair vs. any type of court costs. Ford, as with all the car manufacturers, feel it's "less expensive" to pay court costs and jury awards than to just fix the problem."


All the major industries do this...they employ cost analysis personnel to examine the cost of a recall versus the estimates of settlements and court fees.

The insurance agencies do this as well.

Good luck Ross!

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