Tesla doors ‘wouldn’t unlock’ as driver burned to death

A doctor in Florida burned to death because the battery in his Tesla burst into flames and the car’s futuristic door handles wouldn’t allow a police officer to rescue him, according to a legal complaint.

Dr Omar Awan died in February after his Tesla hit a palm tree.

The complaint alleged the car’s battery caught fire after the smash and began to fill the vehicle with smoke and then flames.

Although a police officer was nearby and tried to help, part of the design of the Tesla Model S is to retract the door handles into the car and they then “auto-present” and pop out when the car’s key fob is detected nearby.

West Wing actress Mary McCormack has shared a video of her husband's Tesla which caught fire "out of the blue".
Actress filmed moment Telsa Model S caught fire in 2018

However, the handles malfunctioned and people were not able to open the doors and save Dr Awan, the lawsuit claimed.

The police officer came to help but there was no other way for him or other bystanders to open the door as its insides filled with smoke, it was alleged.

“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 complaint said.

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Dr Awan had no broken bones or other injuries resulting from the crash.

According to the lawsuit, Tesla batteries are “prone to unique types of fire risk” and the Model S is, by design, “defective and unreasonably dangerous” rendering it “a death trap”.

Dr Awan’s widow and children are suing Tesla over these alleged defects in the Model S, and are being represented by attorney Stuart Grossman.

There have been a number of high-profile incidents in which the lithium-ion batteries in Tesla cars – which provide the main source of power for them compared to the petrol tanks in non-electric cars – have caught fire.

Last year, West Wing actress Mary McCormack shared a video of her husband’s Tesla which caught fire “out of the blue” although fortunately nobody was injured.

Earlier this year security footage from a car park in Shanghai emerged which appeared to show an apparently undamaged Model S car exploding after billowing smoke.

Video on a social media site shows a Tesla exploding in flames
Image: Video on a social media site shows a Tesla exploding in flames

Tesla has claimed the Model S once achieved “the best safety rating of any car tested”.

It also said its cars were 10 times less likely to experience a fire than traditional vehicles, although it was unclear whether those figures reference typical usage or in the incident of a crash.

The lawsuit follows the company announcing a surprise profit of $ 143m (£111m) in its quarterly results this week, giving its share price a solid 17% boost in after-hours trading.

A spokesperson for the company did not respond to Sky News request for comment.

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