Tesla That Caught Fire in Florida Crash Reached 116 MPH

By Alan Levin | June 27, 2018

A Tesla Inc. Model S driven by an 18-year-old reached a top speed of 116 miles per hour before skidding into a wall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and bursting into flames, according to a preliminary report by U.S. accident investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is looking into the flammability of lithium-ion battery packs for electric vehicles, released the report Tuesday on the May 8 accident that killed the driver and one of two passengers. The report didn’t contain any conclusions about causes of the crash.

The sedan reached 116 mph before beginning to slow as it approached a turn in the road marked by a flashing warning light with a maximum speed of 25 mph, the NTSB said. The car lost control, struck a wall, rebounded into another wall and erupted in flames, witnesses told the NTSB.

The fire in the battery pack was extinguished using 200 to 300 gallons of water and foam, the NTSB said. The agency also is looking at a Tesla battery fire in a March 23 crash and sent a technical expert to gather information on a June 15 Tesla blaze. Both cases occurred in California.

A spokeswoman for Tesla, which is based in Palo Alto, California, declined to comment on the findings.

The battery reignited as a crew attempted to remove the car from the accident scene, the NTSB said. The lithium-ion cells caught fire again after the vehicle was taken to a storage yard. Similar issues occurred after the March 23 accident.

Lithium-based batteries contain highly flammable chemicals that are difficult to extinguish. The NTSB investigation includes a review of how firefighters should extinguish battery blazes and how to store electric vehicles after crashes, the agency said.

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