"Burned Alive": Friend Of Tesla Wreck Victim Claims Driver Was "Trying To Save His Life" By Climbing In Back Seat

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 - 10:20 AM

A close friend of one of the men who died in a Houston area fatal Tesla wreck weeks ago says he believes the driver of the vehicle climbed into the back seat while "trying to save his own life". 

Dr. William Varner - identified as one of two men who died in the accident - was in the vehicle after it caught fire shortly after hitting a tree. He was found by first responders to be in the back seat of the vehicle. The other occupant was found in the front passenger's seat. 

Varner's best friend, Bob Wortham, said: “I’ve been going weeks without being able to sleep because I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s just horrible.”

“The reason he was in the back seat, he was trying to save his life. It was such a painful experience for the whole family,” he continued, telling a local NBC affiliate. Wortham said he believed that Varner could not get out of the car and was burned alive.

“There was a neighbor that saw and came over to see what was going on and he said the damage on the front of the car was minor damage,” Wortham said. “This car was burned so bad that they couldn’t identify either of the people by their dental records. That’s how bad they were burned.” 

Recall, we noted two days ago that the NTSB issued their preliminary report on the wreck and noted that "all aspects" were still under investigation. 

The report noted that:

  • Footage from the vehicle's owner's home security system showed "the owner entering the car’s driver’s seat and the passenger entering the front passenger seat". It has been called into question whether or not there was anyone in the driver's seat at the time of the crash, so it appears to be too early to judge whether or not this means anything.

  • It was shortly thereafter that the "car leaves and travels about 550 feet before departing the road on a curve, driving over the curb, and hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree," the report notes. 

  • The ensuing fire destroyed the car's onboard data storage device. Yes, despite the fact that Elon Musk went "all in" in proclaiming that data logs “recovered so far” showed Autopilot was not enabled in the car last month, the NTSB is now reporting that they didn't have access to stored data inside the vehicle The report reads: "The crash damaged the front of the car’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery case, where a fire started. The fire destroyed the car, including the onboard storage device inside the infotainment console."

Then the report highlights one of the main points of contention around the investigation: whether or not Autopilot was engaged. The NTSB writes that a similar vehicle could have engaged Traffic Aware Cruise Control, but not Autosteer, at the point where the crash took place:

"The vehicle was equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. Using Autopilot requires both the Traffic Aware Cruise Control and the Autosteer systems to be engaged. NTSB tests of an exemplar car at the crash location showed that Traffic Aware Cruise Control could be engaged but that Autosteer was not available on that part of the road."

It is unclear whether or not Tesla can toggle the availability of these features, for certain roads, on the fly.