Fa­tal Tesla crash that killed two teens prompts another NTSB in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By Levi Su­ma­gaysay lsuma­gaysay@ba­yare­anews­group.com Con­tact Levi Su­ma­gaysay at 408-859- 5293.

Fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors have opened their fourth ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing a Tesla ve­hi­cle, af­ter two teenagers were killed in a fiery crash of a Model S in Florida on Tues­day.

The Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board an­nounced Wed­nes­day it was send­ing a team of four to in­ves­ti­gate the crash on State Route A1 in Fort Laud­erdale, which killed two 18-year- olds and in­jured a third 18-year- old.

Bar­rett Ri­ley, who was driv­ing the 2014 Tesla Model S, and Edgar Mon­ser­ratt Martinez, who was in the front pas­sen­ger seat, died at the scene when the ve­hi­cle drove off a road­way and crashed into a con­crete wall, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice re­port. The car im­me­di­ately caught fire and was fully en­gulfed in flames, po­lice said.

Alexan­der Berry, who was in the back seat, was ejected from the ve­hi­cle and taken to the hos­pi­tal, said po­lice, who the­o­rize that ex­ces­sive speed may have been a fac­tor in the crash.

The NTSB said it is fo- cus­ing on the emer­gency re­sponse to the elec­tric bat­tery fire. The agency said it did not an­tic­i­pate that Au­topi­lot — Tesla’s driver-as­sis­tance tech­nol­ogy, which has been in the spot­light lately— would be part of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“NTSB has a long his­tory of in­ves­ti­gat­ing emerg­ing trans­porta­tion tech­nolo­gies, such as lithium ion bat­tery fires in com­mer­cial avi­a­tion, as well as a fire in­volv­ing the lithium ion bat­tery in a Chevro­let Volt in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion,” NTSB Chair­man Robert S. Sumwal said in a state­ment.

Tesla has not been able to re­trieve the ve­hi­cle logs, “but ev­ery­thing we have seen thus far in­di­cates a very high- speed col­li­sion and that Au­topi­lot was not en­gaged,” a spokesman said Thurs­day.

“The fam­ily who owned the car has been a close friend of Tesla for many years, and this hits us par­tic­u­larly hard,” he said.

The NTSB is now in­ves­ti­gat­ing four ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing ve­hi­cles made by the Palo Alto elec­tric- car com­pany, in­clud­ing the fa­tal ac­ci­dent on High- way 101 in Mountain View in March. That ac­ci­dent killed Wal­terHuang, 38, of San Ma­teo, who was driv­ing a Model X and crashed into a con­crete bar­rier. Tesla said Au­topi­lot was en­gaged in the mo­ments lead­ing up to the March 23 crash.

The Model X caught fire in that crash, and Mountain View Fire Chief Juan Diaz said the ve­hi­cle’s lithium ion bat­tery re-ig­nited a few times in the days af­ter the crash.

KTVU this week was the first to re­port about the Tesla bat­tery re-ig­nit­ing. Diaz told this news­pa­per Thurs­day that he ini­tially wrote the safety memo April 5 to pro­tect fire­fight­ers in his depart­ment when deal­ing with fu­ture elec­tric ve­hi­cle fires.

The NTSB is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing two other crashes in Cal­i­for­nia: A Model S crashed into a fire truck near Cul­ver City in Jan­uary, and the driver re­port­edly said Au­topi­lot was en­gaged at the time. And it is look­ing into a bat­tery fire of a Model X that drove into a home’s garage in Lake For­est last Au­gust.

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