Broward County

Teen was driving 116 mph seconds before fiery crash that killed him and friend, NTSB says

The 2014 Tesla Model S in which teenagers Barrett Riley and Edgar Monserratt Martinez died in a fiery May 8 crash on Fort Lauderdale’s Seabreeze Boulevard
The 2014 Tesla Model S in which teenagers Barrett Riley and Edgar Monserratt Martinez died in a fiery May 8 crash on Fort Lauderdale’s Seabreeze Boulevard National Transportation Safety Board

Two months after being ticketed for driving 112 mph in a 50 mph zone, Barrett Riley had the same Tesla Model S at 116 mph three seconds before the May 8 flaming crash that killed him and Edgar Monserratt Martinez on Fort Lauderdale's Seabreeze Boulevard.

That's according to the preliminary report from the National Highway Transportation Board on the single car accident, posted to the agency's website Tuesday.

The report says the two 18-year-olds, seniors at Fort Lauderdale's Pine Crest School, were wearing seat belts as the Tesla slammed into a wall twice, caught on fire, then careened across Seabreeze Boulevard into a light pole. Riley lived in Fort Lauderdale; Martinez lived in Aventura.

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As for the battery that caught on fire, the report says, "Small portions of the lithium-ion high-voltage battery had separated from the vehicle, and — though there was no visible fire — (Fort Lauderdale Fire Department) applied water and foam to the debris.

"During the loading of the car for removal from the scene, the battery reignited and was quickly extinguished. Upon arrival at the storage yard, the battery reignited again. A local fire department responded to the storage yard and extinguished the fire."

A report from WSVN Channel 7 includes a family statement from Barrett Riley's aunt, Pat Riley:

We appreciate the NTSB for investigating this accident and hope more information comes forth. What is really at issue here for the family is why did these tragic deaths happen? This was clearly a survivable accident. The boys should not have died in a fire after they survived the crash without much injury. The fire killed these young men… not the accident. The fire was the problem. The fire should never have happened. Why did the electric car batteries catch fire and why was the car passenger not protected inside? That is what we want to learn.”

After the crash, Tesla issued a statement that expressed sorrow for the Riley family as "a close friend of Tesla for many years" but also said, "Serious high-speed collisions can result in a fire, regardless of the type of car. Tesla’s billions of miles of actual driving data shows that a gas car in the United States is five times more likely to experience a fire than a Tesla vehicle."

The speed limit is 30 mph on Seabreeze Boulevard. As southbound drivers approach a left curve near the 1300 block, a sign with a flashing light advises to take the curve at 25 mph.

Witnesses told the NTSB that Riley slid into the left lane to pass a car then lost control of the Tesla as he tried to move back into the right lane.

"According to data obtained from the Tesla’s restraints control module (RCM), approximately three seconds before the collision, the vehicle was traveling 116 mph," the report reads. "Two seconds before impact, the car was traveling 108 mph when the driver applied the brakes and increased the steering angle, at which point the stability control engaged. At the time the RCM initiated the deployment command (for air bags, restraint pretensioners, etc.), the car’s speed had decreased to 86 mph. The brake pedal was still depressed, and a larger steering input had been applied."

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The final paragraph of the report says, "All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes."