Omar Awan, a 48-year-old anesthesiologist, had leased a Model S because of its environment friendliness and high safety rating. Sadly, the latter might have been a double edged sword, as is alleged in the lawsuit by his family lawyers.
Omar Awan was driving his beautiful blue 2016 Tesla Model S when he lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a palm tree. The crash did not kill him though. The battery pack of the car then caught fire, filling the car with smoke and engulfing it in flames. First responders quickly reached the scene, but were unable to open the doors of the burning Tesla.
Dr. Omar Awan and wife Dr. Liliana Awan
Awan's cause of death is stated as "inhalation of products of combustion with a contributory cause of death of thermal injuries" by the Broward County autopsy report.
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The incident took place in South Florida. Omar’s family lawyers allege that the reason onlookers weren’t able to pull the doctor out of the burning car was because the retractable door handles on the car had malfunctioned. The door handles on a Tesla Model S are supposed to “auto-present” themselves when the key fob is present nearby. After the crash, however, the car malfunctioned and first responders were unable to operate the door and pull Omar out of the fire.
A Still from the footage of the accident
The lawsuit alleges wrongful death and blames the technological advancement of the company for the mishap. "These things, they just love to burn," said Stuart Grossman, the family attorney. "The car is so over-engineered. It's so techy, it makes you want to buy a Chevy pickup truck".
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Grossman also said that Awan could have easily bought any car he preferred, including Mercedes or any other luxury car brand. Still, he preferred to buy a Tesla, due to environment friendliness and high safety rating. The Model S is the only car ever to receive a perfect Rollover crash rating, which was a major highlight for the safety measures of the car.
The door handles on the Model S remain hidden unless needed
Tesla’s lawyers are yet to respond to the lawsuit in court, which was filed in October. The only significant comment by the company was presented by a Tesla spokeswoman, who was quoted saying "We are deeply saddened by this accident” and “Tesla vehicles are engineered to be the safest cars in the world and Tesla drivers have driven more than 10 billion miles to date.” Apart from that, Tesla’s public relations team hasn’t made any concrete statement regarding the incident.
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Omar Awan’s death isn’t the only one that puts the blame on Tesla’s advanced technology. A previous lawsuit, stemming from a crash in May 2018 in which two out of three occupants died, also alleges that a battery fire killed at least one of the two deceased. Coincidentally, Stuart Grossman also represents the one survivor of the fatal accident.
In April 2019, a Tesla Model S caught fire while parked in a garage in Shanghai. Surveillance footage shows smoke emerging from the car before it burst into flames. The video was widely shared on the internet, prompting Tesla to open an internal investigation regarding the matter.