Cars crash all the time. Some of them burst into flames every day. It’s not really news when either happens. But when a Tesla Model S rams head on into a tree at over 90 mph and bursts into flames, that gets people’s attention. On Wednesday, a one car accident took the life of a Tesla driver in Holland. Emergency rescue workers were reluctant to extricate the body of the driver until a representative from the company assured them that there was no risk of electrocution.
Fire department spokesman Ronald Boer told Reuters that guidelines for dealing with electric car crashes were well established in the Netherlands. But due to the nature and severity of the wreckage, firefighters could not be certain whether the car might expose rescue workers to high voltage.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported the car’s battery was broken. It said part of the battery caught fire and the blaze was difficult to extinguish. Part of the battery remained inside the car, the paper said, leading to the fears of electrocution. It was 5 hours before a Tesla representative was able to reach the scene and reassure rescue workers, who then proceeded to cut the deceased driver out of the wreckage.
Bear in mind that the news report was written in Dutch and translated by Google. There is the possibility that the translation is suspect, but for now the idea of a Tesla battery becoming detached from a car during a collision is a matter of some concern.
Late on Wednesday, Tesla sent a statement to AutoBlog saying that the car’s Autopilot system had not been activated prior to the collision and that data from the car shows it was travelling at a speed of 155 kph. The car speared head on into a tree. Damage to the front of the car was extensive.
A Tesla spokesman indicated the company was saddened to learn of the driver’s death but could find nothing in the data it recovered from the car to indicate the car was in any way at fault. We are left to speculate, since their are no forensic or medical finding available at this time. Could this be the first reported instance of suicide by Tesla? Other possible scenarios include medical events like heart attack, stroke, or diabetic shock. Alcohol could also be a factor, as more than a third of fatal accidents involve drinking.
Perhaps someday, every Tesla that crashes will not be cause for international news headlines. The Daily Mirror in the UK ran the story under the banner headline, “Horror Autopilot Crash.” Until that day arrives, we will keep you updated on this story when more information becomes available.