U.S. safety agency reviewing fatal Tesla crash in Florida

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Thursday it was reviewing a Florida crash of a Tesla Inc vehicle earlier this week that killed two teenagers.

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla dealership is seen in West Drayton, just outside London, Britain, February 7, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

NHTSA said in a statement it was “gathering information on the tragic crash in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to understand all of the facts. The agency will take appropriate action based on its review.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday it was opening a probe into the crash and sending four investigators.

Earlier, Tesla said its autopilot system was unlikely to have been a factor in the crash. Autopilot, a form of advanced cruise control that has come under scrutiny after two crashes this year, was not engaged when the Model S car drove off the road and hit a concrete wall, catching fire, the company said, adding it had not yet seen logs from the crash.

“We have not yet been able to retrieve the logs from the vehicle, but everything we have seen thus far indicates a very high-speed collision and that autopilot was not engaged,” a Tesla spokesperson said.

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The NTSB has four active investigations into crashes of the company’s electric vehicles.

While admitting that serious high-speed collisions could result in a fire, the Tesla spokesperson defended the car’s safety record, saying a gas car in the United States is five times more likely to catch fire than a Tesla vehicle.

In the event of an accident, eight airbags protect front and rear occupants, and the battery system automatically disconnects from the main power source, Tesla has said previously in promotional materials for the car.

“Should the worst happen, there is no safer car to be in than Model S,” according to a company brochure for the 2014 Model S.

NHTSA previously has said it is investigating two other Tesla crashes earlier this year, including a fatal March crash involving Autopilot in California.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Patrick Graham and Bernadette Baum