The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has found out what when horribly wrong last week when a propane tank exploded inside the trunk of a deputy’s car.
Chief deputy David Cochran said a “vapor cover” on the exterior of the tanks was inadvertently removed, possibly during routine maintenance.
That cover is a safety device that would have vented to the outside of the vehicle any leaking gas.
The leak itself was caused by the improper manipulation of a fitting intended for use during maintenance.
Those two factors caused the vehicle to begin filling with gas shortly after the deputy refilled the tank at the start of his morning shift on Oct. 25.
Cochran said the deputy, who emerged from the incident with only minor injuries, acknowledged that he had noticed the rotten-egg odor of the leaking gas but lit a cigarette anyway.
Now that the causes of the incident have been isolated, additional training is being provided in order to prevent a similar situation.
And the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is not planning to dismantle the 64 patrol cars that have been outfitted with the alternative fuel system that saves the county about $150,000 a year in fuel costs.
However, Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith said this week that he continues to be leaning against moving forward with a similar program to outfit 40 cars.
Smith said he plans to meet later this week with the vendor and county staff to discuss the issue, but he does not see how he can move past the potential liability issue.
The estimated fuel cost savings of $50-60,000 a year would be nothing compared to the potential damages if one of his department’s cars were to have a similar problem, he said.