NTSB investigating deaths of Florida teens in fiery Tesla crash

Speed was a factor in the crash, police said

Two teenagers were killed on Tuesday after the Tesla car they were traveling in crashed and caught fire in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police said on Wednesday.

A preliminary investigation showed a 2014 Tesla Model S drove off the roadway and struck a concrete wall, immediately catching fire, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department said.

Speed is believed to have been a factor in the crash, the police said. Previous to this crash, the Miami Herald reported, Broward County court records showed that the driver, Barrett Riley, had been ticketed in the Tesla on March 3 for going 112 mph in a 50 mph zone.

A witness told the Herald that the Tesla was traveling fast and spun out of control. He said he tried to help the occupants, but the fire was too intense.

Riley, of Fort Lauderdale, 18, and front passenger Edgar Monserratt Martinez of Aventura, 18, were pronounced dead at the scene.The backseat passenger, Alexander Berry of Fort Lauderdale, 18, was ejected from the car on impact, and was taken to Broward Health Medical Center for treatment. Calls made to the hospital on Berry's condition were not immediately returned.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team of four investigators to look into the crash. The NTSB said it did not anticipate that Autopilot was a factor. The board said it was interested in how first responders dealt with the post-crash fire involving the electric vehicle's battery.

"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," said NTSB Chairman Robert S. Sumwalt. "In addition, the NTSB is currently investigating a fire involving the transportation of hydrogen gas for fuel cell vehicles. The goal of these investigations is to understand the impact of these emerging transportation technologies when they are part of a transportation accident."

A Tesla spokesperson said, "We have not yet been able to retrieve the logs from the vehicle, but everything we have seen thus far indicates a very high-speed collision and that autopilot was not engaged."

Tesla issued a statement on the crash, saying, "Our thoughts are with the families and friends affected by this tragedy. We are working to establish the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation to local authorities."

Tesla is currently being probed by the NTSB for a fatal crash in March, where a Tesla vehicle's autopilot system was in use.

Autopilot, a form of advanced cruise control, handles some driving tasks and warns those behind the wheel they are always responsible for the vehicle's safe operation, Tesla has said.

The NTSB also said it was investigating an August 2017 Tesla battery fire in Lake Forest, California, after an owner lost control and ran the vehicle into his garage.

Reporting by Arunima Banerjee

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