U.S. safety board says driver, passenger seats occupied during fatal Tesla crash

Vehicle reached a speed of 67 mph during the 5 seconds leading up to crash

  
A Tesla electric car drives past a crossing in Shanghai, China March 9, 2021.

A Tesla electric car drives past a crossing in Shanghai, China March 9, 2021.

Reuters/Aly Song

WASHINGTON- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Thursday that both the driver and passenger seats were occupied during an April 17 fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in Spring, Texas.

Local police previously said witness statements indicated there was nobody in the driver's seat when the car crashed into a tree and killed the two occupants.

The NTSB said a review of vehicle data indicates "both the driver and the passenger seats were occupied, and that the seat belts were buckled when the (event data recorder) recorded the crash."

Based on a forensic examination of the steering wheel and information from the car’s event data recorder, the vehicle reached a speed of 67 mph during the 5 seconds leading up to crash.

The NTSB also said data indicates "the driver was applying the accelerator in the time leading up to the crash; application of the accelerator pedal was found to be as high as 98.8%."

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NTSB said that "no conclusions about how the crash happened should be drawn from the information in this investigative update" and all aspects of the crash remain under investigation.

The NTSB said its Recorders Laboratory repaired the car’s event data recorder and extracted critical precrash information from the unit.

The NTSB said in May that testing suggested the vehicle's automated steering system was "not available" on the road where the accident occurred.

Last month, an autopsy report showed one of the two victims had a blood-alcohol level that exceeded the legal driving limit, according to an autopsy report. The car was destroyed by a post-crash fire and the victims badly burned.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Nick Macfie) ((David.Shepardson@thomsonreuters.com; 2028988324;))