Driver Dies Following Fiery Tesla Model X Crash on Calif. Hwy

An accident caused a Tesla to catch fire Friday morning, closing all four lanes of southbound U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, according to the California Highway Patrol. Two lanes were later reopened but the crash caused major delays during rush hour.

A blue Tesla Model X was driving southbound on US-101, when the driver ran into a median barrier and the car caught fire, according to CHP. The Tesla was then hit by a Mazda as it landed on a lane and then hit by an Audi. A total of three vehicles were involved.

“We saw a big cloud of smoke and then all of a sudden, there was a fire ball in the air,”

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witness Aiden Sanchez said.The driver of the Tesla, an unnamed 38-year-old man from Foster City, was taken to Stanford hospital and succumbed to his injuries, according to CHP.   

No other injuries were reported. Images from the scene showed the front of the Tesla completely destroyed as firefighters tried to get the fire out. Crews were still on the scene cleaning up as of noon. The CHP thinks the car’s battery may have been involved in the explosion. So officers kept their distance and called for backup.

“We’re used to regular vehicles, now that we have the batteries in these vehicles, we don’t know what’s in them so we’re learning as we go,” said CHP officer Art Montiel. A Good Samaritan who was riding his motorcycle down highway 101 shared what he saw at the scene of crash exclusively to NBC Bay Area after heading over to help.

The Good Samaritan has asked to be kept anonymous. “I saw, past the smoke of the smoldering and sputtering Tesla Model X and saw a man running up with a fire extinguisher,” said the Good Samaritan. “I rounded towards what used to be the front of the car and saw, remarkably, an intact man that was covered in a light layer of dust. The front of the car was simply gone.”

The Good Samaritan said he checked to see if the man had a pulse and shortly after determining the man was alive he noticed the Tesla wasn’t just smoking, but “actively emitting full flames from the battery bank.” The Good Samaritan and two other men were able to take the man out of the burning car and according to him, the man was completely unresponsive.

“We brought him what we hoped was a safe distance from the wreck, hoping the LiPo batteries weren’t prone to exploding,” said the Good Samaritan. “Another man placed the victim in the recovery position.” The Good Samaritan said he wished he could have done more to help.

Tesla sent an employee over to investigate the crash and the subsequent fire. An exposed battery was visible inside the car. CHP officers said the accident was just south of the junction where Highway 101 meets state Highway 85.

Officials are investigating what caused the Tesla to catch fire. A Tesla Model X is a mid-sized, all-electric, luxury crossover SUV made by Tesla with falcon wing doors. It starts at $79,500.

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