Omar Awan was driving a Tesla Model S on Flamingo Road in Davie, Florida, when a crash caused the car to burst into flames.
The fatality took place around 4:30 PM on Sunday, February 24. According to police reports, Awan was heading north on Flamingo Road when something caused him to lose control of the vehicle. He hit the median and then trees. The car burst into flames. The fire was caused by a punctured battery, investigators said.
First responders were unable to rescue Awan from the inferno. The vehicle caught fire again after it was taken to a tow yard.
It looks like Awan survived the impact, but not the fire. This is not acceptable from an engineering standpoint, and it hasn’t been acceptable for decades.
In the early 1970’s, GM engineers were excited about discovering new ways to prevent post-collision fuel-fed fires. In a memorandum entitled “Thou Shall Not Die of Fire”, the engineers proposed a new post-collision fuel safety standard: if the occupants survive the crash, then the fuel-system must survive intact as well, and there must be no fuel fire. Or, as the engineers used to say among themselves, “If the flesh and bone survive, the metal ought to.”
That was almost fifty years ago. New electric cars have batteries instead of gasoline fuel, but those batteries are not more explosive than gasoline. It’s a different engineering problem, but not a harder one. Abd the standard is the same. If the occupants survive, there must be no fire.
The NHTSA has already investigated Tesla’s battery fires. In 2014, the probe was terminated after Tesla vowed to shield the batteries better. At the time, Tesla’s influential CEO, Elon Musk, announced that the underbody of their new cars would feature a triple shield: aluminum bar, titanium plate, and solid aluminum extrusion. The company also offered a service to add the new features to the cars that were already on the street.
In 2014, Musk wrote, “With a track record of zero deaths or serious, permanent injuries since our vehicles went into production six years ago, there is no safer car on the road than a Tesla. The addition of the underbody shields simply takes it a step further."
It is worth noting the impressive safety record of Tesla vehicles, and remembering that it is not yet confirmed whether Awan survived the impact. If he did, however, the standard is clear. And the vehicle is defective in that regard.
Chronology of Tesla Battery Fires
- October 2013 – Tesla Model S collides with debris in Seattle, car catches fire, driver uninjured.
- October 2013 - Tesla crashes through the wall, hits a tree in Mexico, then catches fire. Driver uninjured.
- November 2013 - Tesla Model S runs over tow hitch in Tennessee, catches fire, driver uninjured.
- February 2014 - Tesla Model S catches fire in Toronto, Canada. Driver uninjured.
- July 2014 - Tesla Model S crashes against various vehicles and catches fire in Los Angeles. Driver in critical condition, two police officers injured.
- June 2015 - Tesla catches fire after plunging off a cliff in Los Angeles. Driver killed in the fire.
- August 2016 – Tesla catches fire in France during promo tour. No injuries.
- November 2016 - Tesla crashes into tree in Indianapolis and catches fire. Both driver and passenger killed.
- March 2017 - Tesla Model S catches fire at charging station in China. No injuries.
- August 2017 - Tesla crashes into home in Lake Forest, CA, ignites a fire in the garage. Driver injured.
- October 2017 - Tesla Model S crashes into a concrete barrier in Austria, catches fire. Driver injured.
- March 2018 - Tesla Model X crashes against other vehicles in Mountain View, CA, catches fire. Driver killed. Tesla stock goes down 5 percent after the fatality.
- May 2018 - Tesla Model S crashes against a concrete wall in Fort Lauderdale, catches fire. Two teenagers dead, one injured.
- May 2018 – Tesla crashes against a concrete barrier in Ticino, Switzerland, catches fire. Driver killed.
- June 2018 – Husband of actress Mary McCormack’s Tesla spontaneously catches fire while in traffic in LA. No injuries.
- December 2018 - Tesla Model S catches fire in a parking lot in Los Gatos, CA, reignites later at the tow yard. No injuries.
- February 2019 - Tesla crashes into tree in Alameda County, CA, catches fire, car crumpled into “a metal ball”. Driver escapes.
- February 2019 – Tesla Model S hits median and trees in Davie, FL, catches fire. Driver killed.
John Uustal is a Fort Lauderdale trial lawyer with a national law practice focused on serious injuries resulting from dangerous and poorly designed products. His upcoming book Corporate Serial Killers focuses on companies that choose profits over safety.
To Connect with John: [hidden email].