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by Tim Beissmann

Ford Australia does not believe there is any connection between a recall of 14 million vehicles and the faulty cruise control in a 2002 Explorer that sent a Melbourne man on an uncontrollable high-speed nightmare ride yesterday afternoon.

Chase Weir was behind the wheel of his eight-year-old SUV on the Eastern Freeway just before 1:00pm when the cruise control jammed on 100km/h.

Despite all his attempts to apply the foot brake, change gears and turn off the ignition the car would not drop below 80km/h.

He called Ford’s service assistance but hung up when he was put on hold by an operator who went looking for a solution.

“I didn’t really want to be on hold at that point.  I hung up and rang 000,” he said.

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He spent the majority of his 30 minute, 54km journey on the phone to a sergeant from Victoria Police.

“The operator told me 20 times to stay calm and that help was on the way.

“I was hysterical.  I screamed at the lady on the phone ‘I’m going to die’.

“I have never been so scared in all my life.”

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A police van arrived within minutes to warn off other Eastlink motorists but he eventually ran out of road and headed into Frankston.

With traffic built up on the Moorooduc Highway, Weir crossed the median strip and drove on towards oncoming traffic.

It was at this time that the sergeant ordered him to pull the handbrake which sent the car into an uncontrolled skid.

“I just shut my eyes.  I could hear the tyres skidding on the road for what seemed like forever.  I thought I was dead.

“When I opened my eyes, I was bonnet-to-bonnet with the car in front of me,” he said.

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Weir was treated for a sore neck and anxiety at the scene before being taken to Frankston hospital, while the car has been impounded pending a full police investigation.

In October this year, an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) led to Ford’s largest ever recall which included 4.5 million Explorers.

The NHTSA found that a switch allowing the driver to disengage the cruise control by tapping the brake could start a fire whether the engine was on or off.

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Ford Australia spokeswoman, Sinead McAlary, was confident that the two issues were not related.

“The two are not aligned at all.  They are very different.

“From what we know of what happened yesterday it seems it’s completely separate,” she said.

Ford has requested to complete its own testing on the vehicle after the police are finished with it.

“This is an extremely unusual scenario. It hasn’t been heard of anywhere in the world before,” McAlary said.

 

(with AAP, Herald Sun)




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