A Tesla Model S that observers say was traveling at a high rate of speed prior to a crash may have had a door-handle malfunction that prevented would-be rescuers from pulling the occupant from the vehicle. Accidents involving fatalities can and do happen with almost all model vehicles, but what makes this crash seem more tragic is that the exact scenario seems to have been predicted in a 2017 Tesla Forum post.
The post by "gornikmarcin" which you can read in its entirety, stated in 2017, "I believe door handles on a Model S are a safety issue and horrible manufacturing defect on the Tesla part. If you get into the accident and first responders can't open the door to pull you out... just use your imagination Tesla, do you really want someone to get hurt because of a microswitch and bad wire placement?"
Unlike a typical car, the Model S has door handles that are flush to the vehicle when not in use. They present themselves when needed. When the airbags deploy, the handles are supposed to pop out and the locks are supposed to be undone so that the door can easily be opened from the outside. Tesla is aware that these door handles are unusual and has a special guide for first responders. In the guide, the door handle section includes these instructions:
- Model S has unique door handles. Under normal conditions, when you press a handle, it extends to allow you to open the door.
-NOTE: When an airbag inflates, Model S unlocks all doors, the trunk, and extends all door handles.
-NOTE: If the door handles do not function, open the door manually by reaching inside the window and using the interior door handle.
A passerby named Misty Lea Thomas claimed on Twitter that she and her husband were at the scene. Misty says, "We were there. My husband tried to break the back window out. The airbags didn’t deflate after the crash and trapped the person inside. We couldn’t even see inside the car because all of the bags filled the car. The doors couldn’t be opened." She went on to add, "These airbags didn’t deflate afterward. The bags trapped the driver and we couldn’t get past the bags to get to him. The entire car was filled with airbags." Finally, Ms. Lea says, "My husband tried to get the door handles to pop out but they weren't working." Following our own review of these tweets, the poster seems to have discontinued her Twitter account after being harrassed by other commenters. However, there are other reports with similar information.
We were also able to also find this corroborating story by Davie police spokeswoman Vivian Gallinal, who indicates that arriving officers had to try to break windows to gain access. Images show that the vehicle's structure is not very deformed and the door handles are not presented.
Torque News has opted not to sensationalize this story out of respect to the deceased. Images, video, and more graphic details of the event can be found at this Twitter link