In Ominous Development, NHTSA Joins NTSB In Probing "Horrific" Tesla "Deathtrap" Crash

Nothing spoils the excitement of a new relationship quite like having to reckon with the consequences of a fatal accident that left two teenagers dead inside a piece of machinery that you helped create. And yet it appears that's exactly what Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has already had a rather extreme week, even by Musk standards, is about to do, according to CNBC

Because barely a day after the NTSB said it would be sending a team to investigate yesterday's "horrific" deathtrap crash, in which the two teens died after being trapped in the burning Model S, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has much wider latitude to hold Tesla accountable, has said it will launch a probe of its own. That's bad news for Tesla, because, unlike the NTSB, which can only issue recommendations, the NHTSA has the power to fine companies and impose other penalties.


The NTSB is essentially toothless, which, we imagine, is why Musk felt comfortable blowing them off, sparking a feud between the regulator and Tesla involving the NTSB probe into another fatal Tesla crash in Mountain View, Calif.

"The agency will take appropriate action based on its review," NHTSA said Thursday.

The NTSB has said it expects to focus its investigation on the electric vehicle battery fire that was a factor in the Florida crash and several other fatal accidents involving Teslas. The agency said it does not currently expect Autopilot to be part of its inquiry - though that could of course change.

Police who responded to the scene have said speed appeared to be a factor in the crash as well. Tesla issued a statement saying it would cooperate fully with local authorities (though the NTSB might be SOL).

"Our thoughts are with the families and friends affected by this tragedy," Tesla said in a statement. "We are working to establish the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation to local authorities."

Three 18-year-old men were driving a Tesla in Fort Lauderdale when it suddenly slammed into a wall. Two of the men were trapped inside the vehicle and died in the fiery wreck. A third who was ejected from the vehicle survived.