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Tesla Model S Involved in Horrific Car Accident

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【Summary】The vehicle was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene. A group of first responders explained that debris from the crash was found over 150 yards away from the site. Furthermore, the series of events caused the car’s lithium-ion battery to catch on fire and spew out dangerous projectiles.

Original Michael Cheng    Nov 05, 2016 7:35 AM PT
Tesla Model S Involved in Horrific Car Accident

A Tesla Model S reportedly crashed into a tree, killing 27-year-old Casey Speckman (driver) and 44-year-old Kevin McCarthy (passenger) in Indianapolis, Indiana. The vehicle was allegedly seen traveling at high speeds before Speckman lost control of the vehicle and hit a nearby tree. The driver passed away at the scene of the accident and the passenger died at the hospital, due to fatal injuries.

"It hit that tree and it bounced around and all of a sudden it just exploded," said Al Finnell, a local witness. "I had to accelerate my vehicle, because all the car parts went up in the air and I had to accelerate just to get away from it."

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A Closer Look at Tesla Batteries

The vehicle was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the scene. A group of first responders explained that debris from the crash was found over 150 yards away from the site. Furthermore, the series of events caused the car's lithium-ion battery to catch on fire and spew out dangerous projectiles. This is the fourth car accident that involved a Tesla vehicle catching on fire this year (over 174,000 car accidents that lead to fires were reported in 2015, with most not related to Tesla cars). Officials have not confirmed whether the unit's Autopilot mode played a salient role in the crash. In a statement about the incident, Tesla mentioned that it was "highly unlikely" that Autopilot mode caused the accident.

Local firefighters had a difficult time extinguishing the battery-fueled fire that swallowed the vehicle at the scene of the crash. IFD Battalion Chief Kevin Jones confirmed that large amounts of water were required to manage the persistent flames. Although deadly, Jones pointed out during the IFD press conference that massive fires are common in collisions involving high speeds, regardless of the type of fuel source (hybrid, gas-powered, solar or electric) being used by the car. The battalion chief also clarified that his group of fire fighters have received special training for responding to car accidents involving hybrid cars or EVs.

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Tesla Recommendations 

Tesla has made several recommendations, which can be found on its website, for properly handling battery-related fires in the event of a car crash. The company cited that excessive amounts of water is needed at the scene to cool the battery down to safe, operating levels. Attempting to cool a battery down with small amounts of water is not effective and may not be enough to normalize its temperature. A thermal imaging camera must also be used to monitor the battery's status in real-time after it has cooled down to ensure the unit does not heat up again.

To streamline rescue operations during car accidents, Tesla cars are equipped with color-coded wires that indicate the status of current going through the battery system. "Model S is equipped with a floor-mounted 400 volt lithium-ion high voltage battery. Never breach the high voltage battery when lifting from under the vehicle. When using rescue tools, pay special attention to ensure that you do not breach the floor pan," said Tesla in the Model S Emergency Response Guide.

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