Father of 27-year-old woman who died in horrifying fireball when her Tesla crashed into a tree says the lithium batteries are dangerous and ‘if she had been in any other car she would be alive today’
- Casy Speckman, 27, was drunk-driving in November when she crashed a Tesla
- The 2015 Model S’s battery exploded, killing her and boss Kevin McCarthy, 44
- Her father Jon says if she were in a conventional gas car she would have survived
- In 2013, two Model Ses set on fire after batteries were pierced by road debris
- Tesla subsequently increased the shielding on the Model S batteries
- The police investigation into the crash is still ongoing
Dead: Casey Speckman (left, with father Jon) died when she crashed a 2015 Tesla Model S into a tree in November. Its lithium batteries exploded, tearing the car apart
The father of a young bride-to-be has spoken out about his daughter’s horrific death after the Tesla car she was driving crashed and burst into flames.
Casey Speckman, 27, was drunk-driving when the Model S Tesla carrying her and boss Kevin McCarthy, 44, smashed into a tree and exploded in Indianapolis on November 10.
But her father, Jon Speckman, says that she would have survived the crash if her car wasn’t powered by lithium batteries – the same as those found in the exploding Galaxy Note 7 and hoverboard devces – the IndyStar reported.
‘Had she been in another vehicle she would have been alive for me to yell at her for driving after drinking,’ he said.
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Exploded: Speckman was drunk-driving when she crashed, but her father believes she would have survived the high-speed collision if she had been driving a conventional gas-powered car
Speckman had a blood alcohol level of 0.21 per cent; McCarthy, who owned the car, had a level of 0.17 per cent. In Indiana anyone with more than 0.08 per cent is deemed intoxicated.
The 2015 Model S is powered by a 1,200-pound lithium battery array composed of several thousand smaller lithium batteries.
Ripped up: One witness said a wheel shot by his own vehicle after the explosion. An investigation into the crash is ongoing
The battery pack was split apart when the vehicle crashed, causing the fire, police said at the time.
A police investigation into the crash is still ongoing, and police are still working to figure out how fast the vehicle was moving when it hit the tree.
In the seconds after the collision, the car, which was owned by McCarthy, spewed smoke before detonating and sending debris flying into the air, witness Alfred Finnell Jr, 81, said.
He was behind the vehicle when it sped past him, crashed and exploded – a sight that he called ‘the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen’.
‘I thought something had hit my truck, but it had missed my truck,’ Finnell said. ‘It was sitting out in the street. It was the wheel and axle assembly of the car.’
Lithium batteries, which are also used in laptop and cell phone batteries can explode if pierced or otherwise damaged.
In 2013, a Tesla caught fire after its battery was pierced by debris on a Washington road. The driver was able to pull over and was unharmed.
Telsa CEO Elon Musk wrote in a blog response to the news that his cars were still safer than gas-powered vehicles.
‘Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have been far worse,’ he wrote.
‘For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid.’
However, that year saw another Tesla go up in flames after its battery pack was pierced by an object on the road. Again, the car’s driver walked away unscathed.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency opened up an investigation, but closed it the following year without demanding a recall after Tesla increased the shielding on the batteries.
Denial: Elon Musk (pictured with a Model S) said in 2013 that the car was safe after pierced batteries led to fires. The batteries were given better shielding in later models
The body said it hadn’t identified a ‘defect trend’.
But it added: ‘The closing of the investigation does not constitute a finding by NHTSA that a safety-related defect does not exist, and the agency reserves the right to take further action if warranted by new circumstances.’
Tesla declined to comment to the IndyStar, instead saying it stood by the statement it released at the time of Casey’s death.
That statement read: ‘We have been deeply saddened by this accident and have been working closely with authorities to facilitate their report.’
The company said at the time that the explosion destroyed a system that would have automatically transmitted crash data to its headquarters.
However, it speculated that the car had not been in ‘Autopilot’ mode, which automatically restricts a car’s speed, as it appeared to have been driving much faster than the 35mph allowed on that street.
‘While it can be difficult to determine the precise speed of a vehicle in such a crash, the observed damage and debris field indicate a very high speed collision,’ it said.
Lithium: The cars run on several thousand lithium batteries, the same kind used in laptops and cell phones. Lithium batteries have exploded in hoverboards and Galaxy Note 7 phones
Tragic: Casey’s boss Kevin McCarthy (left) was also killed in the explosion. Casey was due to marry fiance Brandon Seniff (right) this year
In his interview with the IndyStar, Speckman also said that his daughter was not entirely to blame for the crash, saying she had swerved to avoid a driver who was moving in the wrong direction down a one-way street.
His attorney obtained CCTV footage that he says shows the headlights of a vehicle driving toward Casey’s car prior to the crash.
He has not yet decided whether he will sue Tesla.
Casey graduated from Indiana University in 2011, and was working as a sales representative for Case Pacer, a legal software. McCarthy was an ex-FBI agent and the company’s founder.
While at the university Casey had met fiance Brandon Seniff, whom she had intended to marry this year.
In a letter on her wedding website, she wrote: ‘We have experienced and supported each other through all the great times, traumatic and sad times.
We have graduated college, graduated law school, obtained first and second jobs … living together and living apart, got a sweet puppy, bought a condominium in Indianapolis … and did it all together!’