MIAMI – A 20-year-old Tesla driver who died with a passenger in a fiery, high-speed crash on a residential South Florida street last year might have been upset after learning he had lost a scholarship, federal investigators said.
The National Transportation Safety Board released new documents Tuesday saying the driver of the 2021 Model 3 sedan had learned several hours before the Sept. 13, 2021, crash that he had lost a scholarship at Florida International University. The school's main campus is located just west of Miami.
The driver's friends and family told investigators that he didn't seem unusually perturbed about the scholarship, according to the NTSB report. But his passenger, a 19-year-old woman, texted her mother shortly before the crash that the driver was upset about the scholarship and that she was trying to make the him feel better.
The crash occurred after the driver accelerated to 90 mph (145 kph) through a Coral Gables intersection to beat a yellow light on a residential street, his speed tripling the 30 mph (49 kph) limit, investigators said. The driver had owned the car for about six days before the crash.
The driver lost control as he cleared the intersection and veered left onto the median, where the Tesla glanced off one large tree before before smashing its passenger's side door into a second, the NTSB said. The driver never hit the brake, a report said, citing five seconds of data recovered from the car's severely damaged event recorder.
The crash damaged the Tesla's high-voltage lithium-ion battery and the car erupted into flames, killing the driver and passenger.
Tesla vehicles do not use gasoline that could raise the risk of a big fire after a crash, but the company’s guidance to first responders includes a warning about lithium-ion battery fires. Tesla representatives have said high-speed collisions can result in a fire for any kind of car.