(THE SUN-UK) — A Tesla driver burned to death after a crash because the “futuristic handles” on his car trapped him inside and rescuers couldn’t open the doors, it is claimed.
Dr. Omar Awan, 48, lost control of his car, skidded across a road and smashed straight into a palm tree in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in February.
Smoke and then flames engulfed his blue Model S Tesla shortly after the crash.
A police officer arrived almost immediately, and crowds gathered outside the vehicle, but no one was able to save the father of five because of the “inaccessible door handles,” a lawsuit claims.
The car’s retractable door handles are meant to “auto-present” or pop out when they detect a key fob nearby.
But it malfunctioned, stopping first responders from opening the doors and saving Awan, it is claimed.
His loved ones are now suing the electric car company for wrongful death, alleging the car’s lithium-ion battery caught fire.
The smoke from this suffocated Awan and burned him from his feet upwards, it claimed.
The complaint said the car burned for hours, reigniting several times even after firefighters extinguished the flames and also when it was being towed away.
The lawsuit added: “After the Tesla hit the tree, he was alive. He had no internal injuries or broken bones.
“He died from the smoke he inhaled as he sat locked inside the Tesla, despite that a police officer and others were there and ready to help, until flames forced them away.
“The fire engulfed the car and burned Dr. Awan beyond recognition — all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk.”
The Sun has contacted Tesla for a statement.
The company’s lawyers have not yet responded in court.
Tesla, the maker of electric vehicles, claimed the Model S once achieved the “best safety rating of any car tested.”
Awan’s family lawyer Stuart Grossman described the victim as environmentally sensitive and safety conscious.
He insisted Awan could afford a Mercedes or another luxury vehicle but went with the 2016 Tesla because of its safety.
He added: “These things, they just love to burn. The car is so over-engineered.
“It’s so techy, it makes you want to buy a Chevy pickup truck.”
After the incident, Tesla said in a statement: “We understand that speed is being investigated as a factor in this crash, and know that high-speed collisions can result in a fire in any type of car, not just electric vehicles.”
His family is seeking more than $15,000 in damages.
The emergency guide says: “If the door handles do not function, open the door manually by reaching inside the window and using the interior door handle.”
It is not the first time Tesla has been blamed for a death.
In May 2018, Barrett Riley and his friend Edgar Monserratt, both 18, died when they lost control of Riley’s dad’s car at 116 mph.
Dad James Riley claimed Tesla is at fault for the speed, fire and the teens’ deaths.