The deadly collision between a Tesla Model 3 and a tractor trailer in suburban Delray Beach has attracted the attention of the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Jeremy Beren Banner, 50, was killed early Friday when the 2018 Tesla Model 3 he was driving southbound on State Road 7 went underneath a tractor-trailer making a left turn onto the northbound lanes, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. The crash caused the Tesla's roof to tear off, killing Banner.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is authorized to investigate any civil transportation crash in the U.S., announced Friday it sent a "go team" of three investigators to Palm Beach County "to look into what may have caused this crash," spokesman Terry Williams said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tasked with reviewing safety defects in motor vehicles, followed Saturday by saying it was also examining the crash.
Neither agency on Monday said specifically why they were looking into the suburban Delray Beach crash, but the Tesla's Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system is likely to be a focus of attention. The system keeps a car in its lane and brakes to avoid traffic, but has been criticized because it lulls some drivers into a false sense of safety.
The NHTSA has probed or is currently reviewing several fatal wrecks involving the Tesla Model 3 or the pricier, more technologically advanced Model S, including a Feb. 24 crash in Davie that killed a physician and father of five.
A PBSO report on the crash that killed Banner, a Wellington-area resident, did not say if the vehicle's Autopilot or emergency braking system were activated when it smashed into a 2019 International LT tractor trailer, which was pulling out of Pero Farms on State Road 7 north of West Atlantic Avenue.
The truck made a "brief stop" at a stop sign before moving across State Road 7 as it made a left-hand turn onto the roadway. The report refers to the tractor-trailing "pulling into the path" of the Tesla, but PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Monday the case is open and no citations have been issued to the truck's driver, Richard Keith Wood, 45, of Ruskin.
The crash has similarities to another near Gainesville in 2016 that killed a 40-year-old Ohio man after his Tesla ran into a truck that was making a left turn onto the highway. In that incident, the Tesla's roof was also sheered off, killing the driver. An NHTSA investigation found the car manufacturer had no responsibility for the crash.
Tesla said in a statement that it is cooperating with the suburban Delray Beach investigations.
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