Police Unable To Confirm If Laptop Or DVD Were In Use During Fatal Tesla Model S Crash

Tesla Autopilot

JUL 10 2016 BY ERIC LOVEDAY 36

Model S

Model S

The fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode and a a large truck/trailer may have a slight development.

It had been previously reported that a DVD player was airing Harry Potter in the Model S at the time of the crash:

“Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the truck and owner of Okemah Express LLC, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”

 “It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road,” Baressi told The Associated Press in an interview from his home in Palm Harbor, Florida. He acknowledged he couldn’t see the movie, only heard it.”
Well, that may or may not be the case as investigators found both a laptop and a DVD player in the wrecked Model S, but were unable to confirm if either were in use at the time of crash.
As Reuters reports:

“Investigators found a laptop computer in the Tesla Model S sedan involved in a fatal crash on May 7, the Florida Highway Patrol said on Thursday.”

“Neither the computer nor a DVD player also found in the vehicle was running after the crash, according to Sergeant Kim Montes, who said investigators could not determine whether the driver of the Tesla was operating either at the time of the crash.”

Update (further details):

“Sergeant Montes said the 2015 Model S was equipped with a computer stand, but the laptop was not mounted on the stand when investigators recovered the computer after the crash.”

So, it remains unclear then if the Model S driver was distracted by other devices running in the vehicle at the time of the wreck.

Source: Reuters

Categories: Crashed EVs, Tesla

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36 Comments on "Police Unable To Confirm If Laptop Or DVD Were In Use During Fatal Tesla Model S Crash"

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Since the driver of the truck says he heard it, and with no evidence to suggest he’s wrong, I’m inclined to think he did. This is especially true if a Harry Potter disc, or something that would sound similar, was found.

He may not be a reliable witness since charges are pending against him for turning left across the lane of oncoming traffic. Certainly a disc or video file would help corroborate his testimony.

The truck was using a left turn lane. If the Tesla was going 85 on a state highway, chances are the car was nearly a half mile away when the truck started turning. Oncoming traffic is a bit of a stretch.

“he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him”

Then now the truck driver says he heard Harry Potter movie running?

LOL WUT?

Such a liar, so lame…

I also find it hard to believe he heard a movie playing in a car traveling 85 miles an hour that didn’t stop till it was 1/4 mile away. If he walked up to the car later to hear it playing, it would have still been playing when the police arrived. I think he’s just trying to protect himself.

He heard it ATER the crash, when he went to investigate the Tesla… everyone seems to miss this critical point

He heard it AFTER the crash, when he went to investigate the Tesla… everyone seems to miss this critical point

That’s exactly what I can’t understand. Why has there been any comment whether the disc was in the DVD player or available on the notebook. Why hasn’t that information been released??

Ambulator — Neither of the drivers had great driving records. I don’t know about you, but I tend to doubt the word of drivers who have gotten 7 citations in the last 2 years: “Federal safety records show that the truck company involved in the crash that killed a motorist using self-driving technology was involved in seven citations during four traffic stops over the past two years. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records don’t identify drivers by name, but they show that the driver for the trucking company Okemah Express was ordered off the road in January after being cited by a Virginia state inspector for being on duty more than the legal limit of 14 hours in one day. Okemah’s driver was also cited for failing to obey a traffic control device in March and an improper lane change in December. And an inspection last year found the truck’s tires were going bald. Sixty-two-year-old Frank Baressi of Palm Harbor, Florida, is the owner of Okemah Express. The company has one truck and one driver, Baressi himself.” http://www.star-telegram.com/news/politics-government/national-politics/article87081747.html (Tesla driver had 8 tickets in the last 6 years, the latest in 2011, so he was no angel either. I’m not… Read more »

“Tesla driver had 8 tickets in the last 6 years, the latest in 2011”. If his latest was in 2011, it would imply he received 8 tickets between 2010-2011. The Model S was released in 2012. This would mean that the Tesla driver didn’t get a ticket with his Model S, nor did he receive a ticket in the past 4.5 years.

This latest news update contradicts a previous Reuters news story that said that a “FHP trooper on the scene told the property owner, Robert VanKavelaar, that a ‘Harry Potter’ movie was showing on the DVD player,” but that was double hearsay since it was the property owner making repeating what someone else said. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-tesla-autopilot-dvd-idUSKCN0ZH5BW To sum up the previous Reuters article, there were at least four witness who at the crash site and made a claim whether a DVD was playing. 1) Terence Mulligan, a passing motorist who witnessed the crash said “there was no movie playing . . . There was no music. I was at the car. Right at the car.” Mulligan was driving westbound behind the truck as it attempted to make the left turn and spotted the Tesla traveling east. Mulligan said the Tesla did not appear to be speeding on the road, which has a speed limit of 65 miles per hour. He apparently went up to the wreck shortly after the crash, before the first Florida state trooper arrived at the scene. 2) Frank Baressi, the truck driver said he heard a Harry Potter movie playing, but couldn’t actually see it playing. Baressi told… Read more »

Unfortunately this is all too common on what’s reported by local news agencies, and by newspapers. Neither type of news organization is likely to spend time checking their facts.

I’ll never forget when a relative of mine was involved in an incident at a local lake, where a young lady fell off a speedboat and he swam out to rescue her. He showed us for different clippings from four different local papers. Other than the date and the location described in the stories, the stories were all startlingly different. One had more than one person falling into the water; some had the girl drowning; one had both him and the girl drowning.

Eyewitness reports are unreliable enough. But when those eyewitness reports are repeated by other bystanders, it quickly becomes a real-life game of “Telephone”. And unfortunately, such second- or third-hand reports are often the sources used by local reporters.

As they say in the newspaper business: “The story doesn’t have to be right, it just has to be in by 5 o’clock.”

Link to ABC News Video where VanKavelaar speaks at 1:49 speaks about the FHP trooper telling him a video was playing on the dash

At 1:23 into the video it shows that a hill crests near the intersection which limits the visibility of cars approaching the intersection until they crest the hill.

Another possibility is that instead of a movie playing, the Tesla driver was listening to an audio book of Harry Potter. In the YouTube video that the Tesla driver previously posted of almost being sideswiped by a truck and Autopilot saving him, he was listening to an audio book.

Link to ABC News Video where VanKavelaar speaks at 1:49 speaks about the FHP trooper telling him a video was playing on the dash.

At 1:23 into the video it shows that a hill crests near the intersection which limits the visibility of cars approaching the intersection until they crest the hill.

Another possibility is that instead of a movie playing, the Tesla driver was listening to an audio book of Harry Potter. In the YouTube video that the Tesla driver previously posted of almost being sideswiped by a truck and Autopilot saving him, he was listening to an audio book.

sven — Excellent write-up. +1

The Trooper may have been repeating to the homeowner VanKavelaar what the truck driver had told the Trooper. So the homeowner VanKavelaar could have heard it from the Trooper, but it might have simply been the Trooper repeating the truck driver’s words without the Trooper having any actual knowledge of a DVD playing. Yet another possible layer of hearsay.

That would make it triple hearsay.

The truck driver is lying through his teeth!
If a car drove past you on the highway at 85 mph with the windows up, I bet if it passed you five times each way you wouldn’t be able to HEAR if the radio was on let alone what was playing.
This guy maintains he saw something playing on a screen inside the car, when in the same sentence states that the car was travelling so fast he didn’t even see it pass under his trailer?
BULLS HIT!

So comments apparently don’t work. Depressing.

Hrm? Are you have any issues Ambulator? The site has been having some “hacking” issues over the past 48 hours, but haven’t seen anything affecting the comment systmem? Maybe just some lag in displyay time?

Hi Jay! Monday morning, firefox. (OK on Android Tablet and GoogleChromePC)
I had to flush the cache to get the updated pages. I had the page AND THE COMMENTS of two days ago. The site is unusually sluggish since saturday. It is still slow right now.

I’ve been having issues. In addition to extraordinarily long wait time, I’ve seen the website unavailable, and I’ve had two comments I posted disappear.

Very sorry to see the site undergoing an Internet attack from Ukraine, Jay. What do you suppose their motive is? Some person or persons with an anti-EV political motive? Or perhaps they are trying to “harvest” the e-mail addresses of those who post here?

If the latter, that seems rather strange to me. Surely there are a vast number of other websites that have a lot more personal info on users than this one, which only asks for screen name, e-mail address, and website.

Maybe it’s just Mark B. Spiegel expressing his displeasure at being “outed” as a professional Tesla basher and stock shorter. 😉

Just recently re-launched with “fix”, we had been caching out some old content intermittently just so that something was available.

Seems to be “ok” so far. Hopefully it sticks, (=

How would the truck driver have any idea that a Harry Potter disk/movie were even in the car unless he heard them? I doubt he could make something like that up out of the blue…correct???

I re-read the story, and I’m missing the part where police found a Harry Potter disk/movie in the car.

But all my disks boxes, so maybe he saw the boxes?

The driver has all the motivation in the world to try and blame the accident on the Tesla driver instead of himself. Up to and including fabricating testimony.

I’m betting a judge and jury will be the final answer to this.

If truck driver had a DVD player, they might be tempted to toss it into the Model S and claim the Model S driver was distracted. If The DVD player was not working, how could the driver have heard it playing?

Robl — If the screen were damaged, but the rest of it were OK, the sound could work. Which should be easy enough to test.

You know, there are these things called fingerprints; it would be pretty incriminating if the truck driver’s fingerprints were on the DVD player. Ever think of that?

That trucker must have super sharp hearing if he can hear any sounds coming from the inside of a car traveling at high speed, especially if he was gunning his engine according to his own testimony.

Clearly the Tesla driver wasn’t paying attention to traffic though, in fact he doesn’t appear to have made any attempts to brake at all.

The only way the Harry Potter story makes sense is if the driver went to the wreckage and it was still playing. Seems unlikely just from the impact.

What tech person uses DVD’s much anymore?

Why would you have a computer stand but then watch a movie on a standalone DVD player?

Tesla has logs – why no report of speed from them?

Silly questions:
Playing or not, what disk was in the laptop or DVD player when the first people to the S showed up?

If not plugged in to a power source, could it’s battery have died by the time the officials showed up?

If playing before the accident, could it have continued to play until the truck driver walked (ran?) back to the car?

Truck driver has zero credibility, IMO. He never saw the Tesla coming, but managed to see AND hear Harry Potter playing?? Really?

The fact there was a laptop stand in the Tesla (along with a laptop) is the biggest piece of evidence. Even if the laptop wasn’t affixed to the stand when the police came on the scene, I can totally imagine the laptop getting detached from the stand in thee impacts following the initial impact with the truck.

Was the laptop on playing a movie at the time of the crash (movie could have been downloaded, so no disc in the laptop doesn’t mean he wasn’t watching a movie). The police should be able to figure that out, unless the laptop was completely destroyed.

I hardly believe the truck driver at 62 can tell from the distance what movie is on.

I can also hardly believe that Tesla owner had nothing better to do than to watch kids’ movie while driving.

The whole issue was raised because the driver was told (probably by his lawyer) that the DVD was found in the car and couldn’t think of anything better than to announce it was playing.

However the police refuses to confirm because it was clearly not. The DVD was in the car along with video player because it could have been a favorite movie of his son/daughter.

Can anybody explain to me why the truck driver said it was playing Harry Potter, when it is known now it was not playing anything after the crash?

Why Harry Potter?

Because the whole story was made up by him based on little details about the other driver he was told. Such as found DVD player and DVD.

But this story is already falling apart because it is simply not true.

I believe the truck driver is saying after the crash he went to the tesla to render aid and heard the sound of a harry potter movie playing.

Not that complicated and one that between the police investigators and Tesla we should be able to get an answer to.

My only real question is the speed of the tesla. I can understand taking your eyes off the road for a second, but the fact that it (seems?) that no brakes were applied prior to the crash seems like this was a highly distracted driver, harry potter or not.

Yes, the speed of the Tesla is the key legal question. Because the Tesla clearly had the right-of-way. So unless he was speeding at such an outrageous speed that the truck driver had no chance to yield to him, the truck driver is clearly at fault.

You can’t violate a traffic law, and fail to yield, and then claim the other driver is at fault because they failed to stop in time to avoid your violation of the law.

“Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the truck and owner of Okemah Express LLC, said the Tesla driver was ‘playing Harry Potter on the TV screen’ at the time of the crash and driving so quickly… Baressi acknowledged he couldn’t see the movie, only heard it.” Seriously, he’s claiming he heard a movie playing as a car approached his truck at highway speed? Was he driving with his window down? Is he claiming that the Model S driver was also driving with his window down? Just how far away could you hear a movie being played inside another car, assuming you’re in a moving tractor-trailer rig… not exactly noted for being a quiet environment? And at highway speed, how many (or rather, how few) seconds would you actually be able to hear it as the car whizzed past? This story is sounding less and less credible to me. Not impossible, but I’m now quite skeptical of the truck driver’s claim. Here’s an alternate scenario: The truck driver heard what he thought was “Harry Potter” movie music from the Model S after it had its top ripped off, as it careened across the road after the crash. That music would indicate… Read more »
I continue to not see any contradiction to the speed issue…meanwhile autopilot won’t let you set speed more than 5 mph above speed limit. Since I am a FL resident and know that max state speed limits are 70 mph, max speed possible was 75 mph…NOT the continued errant 85 mph that people keep mentioning. Note that last year’s attempt by GOP-led Florida legislature to raise speed limit to 75 mph was VETOED by Rick Scott after law enforcement organizations state wide went into an uproar…because this was a speed limit increase that no one asked for, but the legislature gave us anyway. Reaction time at these speeds is extremely small and FL roads seemed to be littered with road hazards like blown out tires…which would again be stupid reason for autopilot user to not pay attention to the road. I love my autopilot, but my eyes are on the road. To me, autopilot reminds me of my days standing the deck watch back in the Navy. I didn’t stand over the helmsmen’s shoulder and watch him maintain course. I had enough other stuff to watch out for, like other ships, navigation aids and fishing buoys. One thing you do… Read more »