Tesla Reveals Details on Last Year’s Fiery Model S Wreck in Mexico


We believe these changes will also help prevent a fire resulting from an extremely high speed impact that tears the wheels off the car, like the other Model S impact fire, which occurred last year in Mexico. This happened after the vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curbwall and tearing off the left front wheel, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road and tearing off the right front wheel, before crashing into a tree. The driver stepped out and walked away with no permanent injuries and a fire, again limited to the front section of the vehicle, started several minutes later. The underbody shields will help prevent a fire even in such a scenario.

Concrete Wall Tesla Model S Crashed Through in Mexico

Concrete Wall Tesla Model S Crashed Through in Mexico

Those are the words of Tesla CEO Elon Musk who wrote of the fiery Tesla Model S crash that occurred in 2013.

As we reported when the news initially broke of the wreck in Mexico:

Vehicle: Tesla Model S

Location: Merida, Mexico in the northern area of the Yucatan Peninsula

Date: October 18

Time of incident: 4 AM

Cause of fire: Violent crash with low wall after vehicle jumped curb and went airborne.

Driver: Observed driving at speeds in excess of the speed limit. Fled the scene of the accident. Injuries unknown.

Passengers: If present, believed to have fled the scene, too. Injuries and number of passengers unknown.

Liz Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokeswoman, issued this statement shortly after the crash:

“We were able to contact the driver quickly and are pleased that he is safe. This was a significant accident where the car was traveling at such a high speed that it smashed through a concrete wall and then hit a large tree, yet the driver walked away from the car with no permanent injury.”

Yucatan.com, who was on the scene following the Model S wreck, reported this at the time of the wreck:

Tesla Model S NHTSA Score

Tesla Model S NHTSA Score

According to witnesses, the driver was traveling under the influences of alcohol and apparently injured.

According to the data, the mishap occurred on Avenue Chamber of Commerce 32nd Street San Antonio colony Cucul, right in the roundabout Pocito .

The Tesla plates 89-73 ZAN- journeyed from west to east on the avenue.

At the roundabout, due to excessive speed, the driver at the wheel lost control and crashed into the lining of the gazebo.

The vehicle bounced, jumped the curb and crashed into the site 248 , owned by Ligia Marrufo ; demolished a part of the electrified fence and then crashed into a tree. On impact, the vehicle caught fire.

With the help of other drivers, the driver got out of the car and boarded a private vehicle in which he fled.

Tesla Model S Safest in the World

Tesla Model S Safest Car in America

Now that we have the whole story, we must say we’re amazed the driver survived.  Per Musk:

“…vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curbwall and tearing off the left front wheel, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road and tearing off the right front wheel, before crashing into a tree.”

That does not sound survivable to us.

The US’ safest vehicle for sure lived up to that claim in this incident, which to us reinforces Tesla’s insistence that there’s no safer vehicle out there today than the Model S.

Categories: Crashed EVs, Tesla


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44 Comments on "Tesla Reveals Details on Last Year’s Fiery Model S Wreck in Mexico"

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I still can not find peace with the data of the Tesla fire incidents. How does the vehicle release for several months with no fire incidents, have three within a five week period of time followed shortly by a garage fire, and then all the incidents go away.

Similar parallel with the Chevy Volt. One crash test incident followed by two more battery test incidents (all in a matter of weeks for a total of three), followed by two garage fires, Mooresville NC, and Conn. Then all of a sudden it goes away.

Data was my life and these patterns just look fishy.

You missed the memo. They fixed the freeway fire incidences by raising the height that the car drives in. Yes, the problem was fixed via software.

This will be changed back, according to Musk when he was speaking in Europe. The driver will be able to adjust to any desired height.

It is changed back. The firmware version being pushed out now allows the driver to setup at which speed the vehicle will auto-lower. The new firmware basically coincides with the release of the hardware upgrade. Current owners can, and some already have, upgraded. It is similar to what GM did for the Volt’s battery reinforcement upgrade but it is more important to have the S upgrade done IMO. The factory has included the reinforcements in new builds starting about a month ago.

The Volt battery reinforcement definitely solved the Volt problem, which never happened in the real world, and only happened in crash testing where they were intentionally trying to create a worst case scenario where they could force a fire to happen.

It makes complete sense that the Volt car fire, and the 2 Volt battery fires that happened outside of the vehicle would have happened in a very close time frame, and then never happen again. That is because that was the time frame of the destructive testing when they were doing everything they could to try to make them start on fire, and then they created a fix that they installed on every single Volt on the road today. So of course there was a tight group of fires, and then none after that.

As for the Volt garage fires, in both incidences, the Volt was NOT the cause of either garage fire, as state by the Fire Marshall in the final report. Anyone keen on statistics should be equally a stickler for the quality of their datapoints.

It is pretty much the opposite of fishy. It is straight up scientific method.

Agree!!! That is my point! The garage fires were NOT caused by the Volt. My point is the timing in which they were reported. Two right after the Volt test incident. One right after the Tesla incidents. Have no more garage fires (that were not caused by the EV itself)occurred? I am questioning whether the fires were started on purpose. That is what I am calling fishy.

So, lets follow the numbers. If there were 3 auto fires in a five week period, why haven’t there been more for the rest of 2013 and the first 15 weeks of 2014? If the Model S was so fire prone, why haven’t we seem more? Maybe the raising of the car by a couple of CMs really did make a difference. Only time will tell if the subsequent armoring of the undercarriage makes a difference. Note that Tesla was proactive in these changes. Of course, another possibility is that the 3 fires were coincidence and the unmodified, unraised car is much less susceptible than the numbers would indicate. As to the garage fires, no real conclusions can be made from the data. However, again, Tesla was proactive in introducing a heat fused adapter. It’s still not clear that will make a difference – poor electrical installation is fairly out of Tesla’s hands. I got mine in the mail on Saturday. Tesla was responsive to this though perhaps could have been more so. What really matters is that with best info available, Tesla has moved to fix the problems, even it they are more perception than reality.

No data on the Tesla garage fire. Both of the Volt garage fires were proven to be caused by other sources than the EV.

My only observation is the pattern. Three events in a matter of weeks followed by a home charging incident and then silence. I would really like to know how many Tesla’s have had major impacts with road debris since the three fire incidents. The data just smells fishy.

The odds of a collision with a low lying road hazard are dramatically increased if the Model S has lower ground clearance than the majority of other vehicles. Tesla quickly disabled lowering the car, apparently to reduce the chances of another fire while the NHTSA investigation was going on.

I am very curious what happened with the garage fire in Canada. Tesla sent a big team and never stated what part of the car caused the fire. Seems like a big concern.

Tesla actually does not have lower ground clearance than a majority of other cars. Other performance sedans have similar ground clearance: Jag XF: 4.1″, BMW M5: 4.7″ Audi RS7: 4.3″. At the time, the Model S dropped to 5.2″ in low mode–not sure what low mode is those days with the 5.9 firmware.

Yes, with immediate first hand knowledge of any incident, maybe even prior knowledge with the optional precogs, thanks to a Big Brother compliant telemetry system, Tesla sends their team of black helicopters equipped with neuralizers to cover it all up.

At the time of the two simultaneous Volt garage fires, there were maybe 9000 Volts on the road. Now over 50,000 and 200,000 EVs total. Why did three garage fires happen only around these events? Tesla now has double the EVs on the road since the three fires. Would LOVE to know how much road debris has been encountered since then with the Model S. Just would like the opportunity to view the data. Maybe then I would find peace with the data. Maybe not….

I don’t understand how you can say that Tesla was “proactive” after a 4 month NHTSA investigation. Thats about as un-proactive as it gets.

Spin it any way you wish but consider the dangers of moving before the NHTSA report is out. Given the moves they made at that time, it’s clear they had thought through the issues. I’d like to see GM, Ford or Toyota move that fast.

David forgets that GM, Ford and Toyota have BLOOD dripping on their hands, from intentional choices to ignore safety and design defects in their cars.

Tesla, even after horrific crash examples that would NOT be survivable in ANY of the aforementioned automakers vehicles– clearly deserves some credit for their timely handling of the fire, and related issues.

@MarkH, These aren’t the fires you’re looking for … move along. No Big Bang here.

There is lots of data and summaries of the incidents; after investigation by skilled professionals, nothing unusual found … all cases closed.

The “incidents” just “go away”, they have been studied and reviewed by many … nothing fishy, the facts are well documented!

The cause in each case was external to the vehicles normal operation, and the vehicles responded by keeping occuments safe. While no design flaw was found, additional levels of preventive protection have been added making extraordinary safe vehicles even safer. (both the Volt and Model S)

I agree nothing unusual. I agree all cleared. I am not suggesting cover up. And I know what I am suggesting smells of conspiracy. I just don’t like the data. Worked with statistics and probability for too long.

What are stats on 3-prong hitches and long curved bars of metal being road debris? IMO these types of debris are unusual enough that they are hard to explain by statics.

From an engineering prespective, the root cause was a hitch being on the road. Did it fail and fall off a vehicle? Was a locking pin forgotten?

For comparison look at stats for number of people hurt and injured by un-secured loads each year. Should we spend money on making vehicles better able to withstand road debris, or preventing road debris from posing a hazard?

A plug outlet overheating is an issue related to wiring of the building, not the charger, or vehicle Tesla has added software that monitors current, thus is able to detect the external danger. This is like an outside temperature gauge informing a driver that the road temperature may be below freezing and have ice. Vehicle stats are not going to be a good predictor of an issue, where as building and climate stats could be useful data.

I agree!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is my point! What are the odd of it happening.

“Should we spend money on making vehicles better able to withstand road debris, or preventing road debris from posing a hazard?”

How about preventing road debris!
As long as the insificiant fastening of objects on the back of pick-up trucks is tolerated, as long as the responsible parties are not held accountable, this kind of thing will continue.

I think the data was sparse to begin with, so it was hard to make any broad sweeping interpretation–not that it stopped folks.

We had to incidents of highway damage, the collision in Mexico (which probably would have set a tank on fire), and the house fire in OC (which was never definitely linked to anything–all they could do was localize the source).

With the two highway incidents, it was hard to gauge if it was two corner cases with really bad timing or a bigger issue (I tended to believe the former, but I have nothing empirical to back that up). However, at the time, there I think there some 100M vehicle miles driven at that point, so you would think if there was a systematic issue it would show up sooner and more consistently.


Just to be clear, not implying the incident report go away. I am pointing to the fact that no more fire incidents occur either in collisions or in home charging. I believe that Tesla’s software improvement and reinforced under-plate makes the Model S nearly impervious to fire, but it does not stop people from running over objects in the road. My data unrest is with how many times it occurred in a five week period.

The armoring has only been happening in the last week or so – an insignificant number of miles have been driven (relative to total number of Model S miles todate). I really think it’s hard to come to any conclusion about the 2 debris related fires. I think coincidence is as good an explanation as anything else. But, let’s not loose sight of the fact that there were battery fires and while the work that Tesla has done will reduce the number, I’m sure we will see more fires, especially when drunken fools get behind the wheel of this incredibly powerful car and crash it at high speeds. One thing that really bugs me is the total lack of willingness of the media to understand the nature of a battery fire. In all the cases, the fires were slow to get going. In the two debris related fires, the car instructed the driver to pull over before there was any visible evidence of a fire. The fires took minutes, not seconds to become visible. Compare that to ICE fires – fast and furious. We hear of people burned to death in ICE car fires every day. But a battery fire… Read more »

Yeah, I have written several articles related to the media. My data question deals more with the garage fires that followed. Arson is one of the top ten causes for auto fire. I basically did not like how three garage fires fell so close on the tale of the other incidents. The one here in NC was in a McMansion so I doubt poor wiring was an issue. You are basically down to accident, arson, or act of God. I was simply considering arson as possible.

To be clear. Not suggesting the incidents are covered up. I am asking why so many fire incidents in such a short period of time? No histogram here what so ever.

Are you referring to when the incidents actually occurred, or when they were reported?

Neither really. I am referring to the fact that the total occurrences have appeared in such a way to make a news cycle against EVs.

Some things are just coincidences. It’s certainly possible for such incidents to bunch together for no reason. The NHTSA already said there was no defect trend found (this was one possible explanation), so the only explanation left was that it was coincidence.

As much as I love Tesla, I find they’re marketing goes overboard. Look at the difference in description. Does Tesla have incentive to spin this for marketing?

Elon: “…vehicle impacted a roundabout at 110 mph, shearing off 15 feet of concrete curb wall…, then smashing through an eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall on the other side of the road…, before crashing into a tree”

Yucatan.con & witnesses: “According to witnesses, the driver was … apparently injured.

…the driver at the wheel lost control and crashed into the lining of the gazebo.

The vehicle bounced, jumped the curb and crashed into the site 248… demolished a part of the electrified fence and then crashed into a tree. On impact, the vehicle caught fire.”

Sounds quiet different.
Injured or not?
“eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall” or electrified fence?

The photo above of “Concrete Wall Tesla Model S Crashed Through in Mexico” looks pretty real.

Perhaps confused in the Mexico driver crashed through so many obstacles and not just one? In this case it’s not either/or … the crash involved “all of the above”!

It’s not surprising that reports from that crash are confusing.

High rate of speed and 110 mph aren’t terribly at odds with each other. It would be surprising if the driver wasn’t injured. But from the sounds of it, his injuries weren’t particularly severe or life threatening.

It’s pretty interesting that Tesla continues to be held to a higher standard than any other automaker.

@”Injured or not?”
Tesla says “no permanent injuries”. That’s not the same as “no injuries”. I imagine the driver got some cuts/bruises/scrapes (almost impossible that he didn’t), but no serious injuries for which he needs to go to a hospital for. In other words, he was able to “walk away” from the accident.

“”eight foot tall buttressed concrete wall” or electrified fence?”
Both refer to the same wall. Basically it was a concrete wall with an electric meter on it. People incorrect referred to it as an “electrified fence” (or the wording was incorrectly translated). See here for the wall the car crashed through (with before and after pictures):

Also know that regular airbag deployment can cause “injuries”, specifically from the hot gasses escaping from the inflated airbag.

There is no contradiction between “no permanent injury” as Tesla stated, and the other stories of the individual being injured, but leaving the scene in a private vehicle.

This is exactly how every major crash testing organization in every nation determines whether a vehicle is safe. They determine whether passengers are likely to survive without serious, permanent injury. This is true for US govt tests, Euro tests, Insurance industry tests, etc. This is why Tesla is using these terms, because these are the terms that matter.

If you bruise your legs or whatever minor injury, and survive a 110 MPH accident, the car did its job. Minor injuries aren’t counted by the safety rating agencies, and that’s why Tesla talked about there being “no permanent injury”, even though there were minor injuries. Zero contradiction.

It still blows my mind on WHY the Mexico fire even matters. It was an anomaly, an idiots drunken joy ride. As far as i’m concerned, the car was too safe. It prevented the human race from eliminating bad Genes/Gnomes!

That is the darkside of making the world idiot proof…

street legal tank with sports car acceleration… incredible


David — Is the point of your trolling to make sure every anti-Tesla bogus point you can think of be as thoroughly debunked as possible by actual knowledgeable and factual posters?

Because if that is your intent, it is working.

David and CherylG are dating. 😉

And there’s electricity in the air.


I think CherylG is HOT!

This is the only tesla fire that scares me. That brilliant flash and then the explosions make me wonder what is going on in the passenger compartment.

As far as plugs overheating, the 14-50 adapter is incompetantly designed as it in no way meets NEMA standards for current density. But a short, homemade extension cord could be used to reduce the fire hazzard. Of course the new plugs supposedly have a fuse in them, and hopefully the software will at least at times detect a droop problem and lower the current to 32 amps prior to any fires.

So the trailer hitch fire, the debris fire, and even the garage fire I’m pretty much unconcerned with. The 3 former types of fires have either been addressed by Tesla, and/or the owner can make unattended operation in his garage safer. Its these explosions in this Mexican fire that are nerve-wracking, since it is unknown how they could be avoided during a collision.