Last week’s fatal accident in Florida involving an electrical vehicle is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is giving special attention to how emergency responders – including firefighters and tow truck operators -- dealt with the electric vehicle battery fire that followed the crash.
The 2014 Tesla Model S was reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed on State Route A1A in Fort Lauderdale when it struck a wall and burst into flames. Two people in the vehicle were killed and one was injured.
The NTSB said it does not anticipate the vehicle’s autopilot system being a part of this investigation.
“NTSB has a long history of investigating emerging transportation technologies, such as lithium ion battery fires in commercial aviation, as well as a fire involving the lithium ion battery in a Chevrolet Volt in collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” said NTSB Chairman Robert S. Sumwalt. “In addition, the NTSB is currently investigating a fire involving the transportation of hydrogen gas for fuel cell vehicles. The goal of these investigations is to understand the impact of these emerging transportation technologies when they are part of a transportation accident.”
As with all NTSB investigations, the agency will use the party system as part of its investigative process, offering party status to those organizations that can provide technical assistance related to the event. The NTSB intends to offer party status to local first responder agencies, involved law enforcement agencies and to Tesla for this investigation. Once an organization agrees to become a party, the system enables continued sharing of investigative information, including safety-critical information during the early fact-gathering phase of an investigation. This sharing ensures that a party to an investigation has sufficient information to take any immediate actions necessary to ensure safety.
NTSB investigations are comprehensive, independent, and thorough. Major investigations and those involving fatalities, generally take 12 to 24 months to complete. Transparency in the investigative process is achieved through the public release of on-scene information, preliminary reports, and the public docket, as well as through Board meetings that are open to the public.