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The driver of a Tesla Inc. car that burst into flames after striking a tree last September in Florida had applied maximum acceleration and was racing at several times the speed limit, investigators said Wednesday.
The car sped through a yellow light at an intersection, reaching a speed of 90 miles per hour, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report on the accident.
The battery burst into flames after the impact Sept. 13 in Coral Gables, Florida. Firefighters had difficulty trying to extinguish the blaze, which reignited at least once, according to NTSB. A 20-year-old man who was driving and a 19-year-old woman passenger died, according to police.
The report contained no indication that the car’s automation systems, known as Autopilot, were involved.
The fiery fatal crash is the latest to draw scrutiny on the safety of Tesla’s innovative electric vehicles. NTSB is also investigating a fatal crash and fire in Spring, Texas, on April 17.
The speed limit in the neighborhood where the Florida accident occurred was 30 miles per hour, NTSB said. As the car reached an intersection, the driver punched the accelerator to 100%, a preliminary review of the vehicle’s event data recorder showed.
The car left the roadway, struck one tree on its left front and then continued another 42 feet where it hit another tree on the passenger side, NTSB said.
The NTSB has repeatedly raised concerns in recent years about issues related to lithium-battery fires in a series of investigations involving Tesla and other vehicles and aircraft. The investigative agency issued multiple recommendations in a safety report on the issue in January, calling on regulators in Washington, manufacturers and firefighting groups to better prepare for such fires.
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