Hazardous Components of Crashed Tesla Model X Major Headache for First Responders

First responders faced a new challenge after a fatal car accident involving an electric vehicle. A Tesla Model X crashed on Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, on the morning of Monday, March 23. The driver was injured and later died in a hospital. The crash exposed wiring to the car’s 70 percent charged battery and first responders faced complications in dealing with the unfamiliar hazards.

“We’re used to the regular vehicles. Now the batteries in these vehicles, we don’t know what’s in them, so we’re learning because obviously it’s not going to be the only crash,” said Art Montiel of the California Highway Patrol station in Redwood City, KTVU reported.

Investigators said the driver smashed into crash cushions placed at the tip of a concrete divider that separates the 101 from the Highway 85 High Occupancy Vehicle off-ramp.

The impact catapulted the car into the air. When it hit the ground, two trailing cars, an Audi and a Mazda, crashed into it.

The Tesla caught fire. The driver was pulled out of the vehicle and sent to Stanford Hospital, but died of the injuries suffered in the crash.

The fire engulfed the car and exposed the wires.

“The orange lines that are on the ground run high voltage through the vehicle as we understand it. And because they’ve been severed completely, and the disconnects are not available to us, we can’t be 100 percent sure that the vehicle’s been made safe for tow personnel or first responders to get close to,” said Mountain View Fire battalion chief Zack Bond.

“It may still be live. We’re not sure. Because of the extent of the damage from the fire,” he said.

The first responders called Tesla personnel, who arrived in several hours. The engineers removed components one by one and soaked each in a solution before discarding.

Tesla’s instructions for first responders state Model X car battery on fire should be dosed with massive amounts of water—up to 3,000 gallons—to cool it down. A burning or heated battery releases toxic vapors and its fire can take up to 24 hours to extinguish.

Highway patrol officers said electric cars are still new and first responders need to learn how to deal with them.

The drivers of the other two cars involved were not injured. The cause of the accident was not officially released, but the highway patrol officers said that speed appeared not to be a factor.