There previously had been three fires involving the Tesla Model S, all within a short span of time last year and all of which generated very bad publicity for the fledgling electric automaker.
Two of the battery fires were legitimate, having been caused by road debris. They were also responded to in a highly appropriate manner. The third was mostly overlooked given that it involved a drunk driver who collided with various solid obstacles at over 100 miles per hour before his Tesla caught fire – the driver walked away from the accident, and the prevailing reaction was “well, that guy is one lucky idiot.”
A horrifying scene
Early on July 4 in Hollywood, another Tesla caught fire in similarly spectacular fashion. In a violent series of collisions, a Model S that had somehow been stolen from a Tesla store was fleeing from police at speeds reaching 100 miles per hour when disaster struck.
It is believed the Tesla first struck a Honda Civic carrying five passengers before going airborne and striking a light pole. The impact sheared the vehicle in two and, amazingly, the back end of the Model S ended up wedged in midair between two walls of a synagogue while the front end caught fire several hundred feet away in the middle of the street. Several parked cars were also struck, and the Tesla battery was broken into multiple pieces that caught fire in the street, sparking and popping like fireworks set off 20 hours too early. Check out videos and photos here and here.
In what is surely some sort of miracle, nobody has yet died from the accident. Six were injured, two in serious condition and two in critical condition. The driver of the Tesla was ejected at some point in the proceedings and was initially believed to be dead, but remains in critical condition at the time of this writing.
The theft was reported around 12:50 AM, and police gave chase soon afterward. It is unclear how the thief managed to steal the vehicle from the Tesla store, but we will update you with details as they are reported.
It is also unclear how the showroom version of the car that was stolen differs from the production models, and how this might have affected the sequence of events after initial impact. Again, we will provide details as they are released. No doubt Tesla will want to clarify what happened in the interest of protecting their safety reputation.
Though it is hardly surprising that the battery caught fire after being split into several pieces, the incident nevertheless does not look good for Tesla. Even though any vehicle would have suffered a similar if not worse fate, Tesla is held to a higher standard whether fair or not. It will be interesting to hear what the company has to say about this spectacular collision.