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Tesla driver killed in fiery crash hit 90 mph, report says

Terry Spencer and Tom Krisher
Associated Press

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. – The Tesla driver who died with a passenger in a fiery September crash near Miami accelerated to 90 mph (145 kph) in the seconds before he lost control and smashed into trees, federal investigators said in a preliminary report released Wednesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the 20-year-old driver accelerated his 2021 Model 3 sedan as he crossed a Coral Gables intersection to beat a yellow light on a residential street, his speed tripling the 30 mph (49 kph) limit.

This image provided by the National Transportation Safety Board shows damage to a 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor electric car following a crash in September, 2021, in Coral Gables, Fla.

The driver lost control as he cleared the intersection and veered left onto the median, where the Tesla glanced off one large tree before before smashing its passenger’s side door into a second, the NTSB said. He never hit the brake, the report said, citing five seconds of data that was recovered from the car’s severely damaged event data recorder.

The Sept. 13 crash damaged the Tesla’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery and the car erupted into flames, killing the driver and his 19-year-old female passenger.

The NTSB said at the time it always investigates crashes involving new technology like Teslas, and that it would focus on the operation of the vehicle and the fire.

Tesla vehicles don’t use gasoline that could raise the risk of a big fire after a crash, but the company’s guidance to first responders includes a warning about lithium-ion battery fires. Tesla representatives have said high-speed collisions can result in a fire for any kind of car.

The NTSB will issue a full report and will determine the cause of the crash at a later date. The agency has broad authority to investigate transportation crashes, but it has no regulatory powers. In traffic crashes, it can only make recommendations to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other regulatory agencies.

Tesla did not respond to an email request seeking comment. The company recalled some Model 3s last month, including some from the 2021 model year, because of problems with the cars’ suspension. The NTSB report does not say if the crash vehicle was covered by the recall.

Coral Gables police said Wednesday their own investigation remains open and no report has been issued. The names of the victims have not been released. The city is located southwest of downtown Miami.


Krisher reported from Detroit.