Lawsuit claims Tesla door handles prevented rescue in fatal fire
The Model S was seen traveling up to 90 mph on the 50-mph road before the crash.
The estate of a Florida anesthesiologist has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla, arguing that the Model S' retractable door handles prevented rescue.
The plaintiffs claim a police officer could not open the doors of the crashed Model S because the handles would not deploy, allowing the driver, 48-year-old Omar Awan, to die of smoke inhalation in the ensuing fire, according to Bloomberg.
"Fire engulfed the car and burned Dr. Awan beyond recognition -- all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk," the lawsuit says.
Bloomberg does not mention a few relevant details that surfaced in the wake of the February accident. A police officer arrived at the scene to find the car already "fully consumed by fire" and witnesses reported the driver may have been traveling up to 90 mph in a 50-mph zone when he lost control of the car, according to report posted the day after the crash by the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Tesla's guide for first responders notes that the Model S is designed to unlock all doors and extend all handles when any airbag inflates. If the door handles "do not function," the door can be opened manually by reaching inside the window and using the interior door handle. First responders are already trained to use the windows for gaining entry if the doors cannot be opened. In the case of the fatal Model S crash, however, initial reports suggest the fire may have been too intense to safely extricate the victim.
Some Model S owners have complained that the door handles do not always deploy properly in normal conditions, though this issue appears to have been more common with early-production cars and has not been officially declared a safety defect.