California

NTSB Begins Investigation Into Tesla Crash That Killed Fort Lauderdale Teens

Edgar Monserratt and driver Barrett Riley, both 18, were killed in the crash

What to Know

  • The National Transportation Safety Board said a four-person team will focus on the emergency response to the post-crash fire
  • Edgar Monserratt and driver Barrett Riley, both 18, were killed in the Fort Lauderdale Tesla crash

A federal safety agency's investigation into a fiery Tesla crash that left two Fort Lauderdale teens dead just days away from graduation is underway.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a four-person team will focus on the emergency response to the post-crash fire in the battery of a Tesla Model S. The agency does not expect Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot system to be a part of the investigation.

NTSB investigators were at Westway Towing along Oakland Park Boulevard Thursday, where the car was brought after Tuesday night's crash.

Edgar Monserratt and driver Barrett Riley, both 18, were killed in the crash. Alexander Barry, also 18, was hospitalized after he was ejected from the car.

The incident occurred in the 1300 block of Seabreeze Boulevard. Police say the car went off the roadway and struck a concrete wall, immediately catching fire. Police said speed may have been a factor in the crash.

Riley and Monserratt attended Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale. Both were set to graduate and go off to college in the fall.

This is the second time in the past two months that the NTSB has investigated a Tesla fire. A probe is under way into a fire in a Tesla Model X SUV that crashed on a freeway near Mountain View, California, on March 23. Lithium-ion batteries like those used by Tesla can catch fire and burn rapidly in a crash, although Tesla has maintained its vehicles catch fire far less often than those powered by gasoline.

Chris O'Neil, spokesman for the NTSB, said Wednesday that investigators don't know what caused the battery fire. He said the agency is investigating because there was a post-crash fire involving an electric vehicle.

"The goal of these investigations is to understand the impact of these emerging transportation technologies when they are part of a transportation accident," NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Tesla and the NTSB got into an open feud over Tesla's release of information from the probe into the Mountain View crash.

The agency said it booted Tesla out of a group investigating the crash after the company prematurely made investigation details public.

Tesla, however, disputed the claim. The company based in Palo Alto, California, said it withdrew from the investigation agreement after being told it would be kicked out if it made additional statements before the NTSB finished its probe in the next 12 to 24 months.

O'Neil said that despite the previous dispute, Tesla would be invited to be a party to the investigation of the Fort Lauderdale crash.

Tesla released a statement on the latest crash, calling it a tragedy and saying they are cooperating with authorities in the investigation.

"We have not yet been able to learn the vehicle identification number, which has prevented us from determining whether there is any log data. However, had Autopilot been engaged it would have limited the vehicle’s speed to 35 mph or less on this street, which is inconsistent with eyewitness statements and the damage to the vehicle," Tesla's statement said.

The company said the family who owned the car "has been a close friend of Tesla for many years."

The NTSB normally makes recommendations to other federal agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has authority to impose regulations and seek recalls.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us