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NTSB: Driver's seat was occupied during fatal Tesla crash

NTSB: Driver's seat was occupied during fatal Tesla crash
A Tesla Model S, the same model that crashed in Texas, sits on a parking lot in Palo Alto, Calif. File Photo by John G. Mabanglo/EPA

Oct. 21 (UPI) -- The driver and passenger seats were occupied during a fiery Tesla crash that killed two in Texas earlier this year, the National Transportation Security Board said Thursday.

The NTSB's findings contradict initial statements by local police that no one was driving the Model S P100D electric car when it veered off a road in Spring, Texas.

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Footage from the residence of the vehicle owner shows two people entering the car, in the driver and passenger seats, the NTSB said.

The car traveled about 550 feet before running over a curb, hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole and a tree.

RELATED Tesla Model 3 underperforms in Korea's safety test

Investigation of the car's event data recorder found the Tesla was moving at 67 mph in a 30-mph zone and that the driver was hitting the acceleration at 98.8%.

"The crash damaged the front of the car's high-voltage lithium-ion battery case, where a fire started," the NTSB said.

The steering wheel was also damaged by the intense heat of the post-crash fire.

RELATED U.S. investigates Tesla's autopilot system over crashes into emergency vehicles

The report said autopilot could only be engaged if both the Traffic Aware Cruise Control and the Autosteer systems were on. In that area, the Autosteer system wasn't available.

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"The NTSB is working alongside the Harris County Texas Precinct 4 Constable'​​​s Office, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation," the report said. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Tesla are supporting the NTSB in the investigation."

Harris Country Sheriff Constable Mark Herman said at the time of the accident that police were certain no one was in the driver's seat at the time of the crash.

RELATED Tesla recalls 6,000 Model 3, Model Y vehicles over loose brake bolts

Tesla executives said in April that the 2019 Model S self-driving vehicle wasn't responsible for the crash that killed the two men, ages 59 and 69.

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