City officials are seeking an explanation from General Motors as to why the air bag didn't activate in a Lawrence police car that was involved in a two-car accident Wednesday morning at 10th and Vermont.
Leonard Monroe, city garage superintendant, said he contacted a local Chevrolet dealer to ask about the patrol car, a 1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, and find out why the driver's side air bag didn't activate.
The local dealership called General Motors, which manufactures the Caprice Classic, and a GM spokesperson called Monroe to tell him that a factory representative would come Friday morning to look at the car, which was destroyed in the accident.
About 8:53 a.m. Wednesday, police said, Lawrence police officer Scott Connell was driving the car west on 10th to an emergency call when he collided with a car driven south on Vermont by Neva Stowe, 19 W. 14th.
The impact of the crash sent the police car into the side of Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt., located in the southwest corner of the intersection.
Monroe said the impact of the crash should have activated the air bag.
"If this one didn't pop, then I'm wondering what would happen to the rest of them," he said. "It definitely should have deployed when it hit (the church) head-on."
Connell and Stowe received treatment for minor injuries.
Lawrence police Sgt. Mark Warren said the police department purchased 14 1991 Caprice Classics from a Wichita dealership last spring. Eleven of those are marked patrol cars.
Police said Wednesday wasn't the first time a patrol car's air bag didn't activate in an accident. On May 4, a patrol car parked at 23rd and Haskell was struck from behind. But Monroe said he wasn't sure whether the air bag would necessarily activate in a rear-end collision.
Monroe said air bags in the Caprice are contained in a compartment in the steering wheel. Three "impact sensors" on the car trigger inflation of the bag.
The bags are designed to prevent a driver's upper body and head from slamming into the steering wheel, dashboard and windshield.
Warren said Connell was wearing a safety belt during Wednesday's accident.
"Air bags are no substitutes for seatbelts.'' he said, ``This (accident) just reinforces that.''