NHSTA, NTSB Investigate Deadly Houston-Area Tesla Crash


Many questions remain surrounding a fiery Tesla Model S crash that killed two people in the Houston-area last weekend, an accident that local investigators say occurred with no one at the wheel.

Federal investigators with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are among those now looking into the deadly accident that killed Dr. William Varner of The Woodlands and 69-year-old Everette Talbot on April 17th.

According to multiple news reports, local investigators say that the 2019 Model S had been driverless, with no one at the wheel, prior to crashing into a tree and bursting into flames in a gated subdivision. They say the Tesla had been traveling at a high rate of speed when it failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road. One victim was riding in the passenger seat and the other in the rear passenger seat.

Firefighters responded to a vehicle fully engulfed in flames and reportedly had to call Tesla for suggestions on how to put it out. The Woodlands Fire Chief told Car and Driver that they were able to put out the initial blaze quickly. But the vehicle continued to reignite and smolder after that. You can read the story published on April 21 here.

The big question surrounds whether the vehicleís AutoPilot feature was enabled at the time of the crash. In a Reuters report, Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, says witness statements indicated that the Teslaís owner and a friend went to test drive the vehicle without a driver.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the feature was not enabled at the time of the accident and that the owner hadnít purchased the full self-driving feature.

The NTSB says it is focused on the vehicleís operation and post-crash fire. A preliminary report from federal investigators could be issued in 30 days, but a final report isn't likely to be issued for 1-2 years..

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