Video: Tesla Model S in Flames After Violent Crash in Mexico (UPDATE)


Tesla Model S After the Fire - Image: Progreso Hoy

Tesla Model S After the Fire – Image: Progreso Hoy

Vehicle: Tesla Model S

Image of Wall Model S Crashed Through - Photo:

Image of Wall Model S Crashed Through – Photo:

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.

Additional information: Unknown at this time

UPDATE: Liz Jarvis-Shean, a Tesla spokeswoman, issued this statement on 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.”

UPDATE 2: This info comes directly (via Google translate) from, who was on the scene following the Model S wreck:

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.

Source: Progreso Hoy

Categories: Crashed EVs, Tesla

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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94 Comments on "Video: Tesla Model S in Flames After Violent Crash in Mexico (UPDATE)"

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Oh hell! Not another one.

After reading this, considering that the driver and passengers fled, so forgive me that I think the Tesla was stolen, which is more of a pain to Mexico’s reputation than another Tesla on fir for Tesla.

Yeah the fleeing implies either stolen or intoxicated if I had to guess

Well, it’s just going to be another frantic discussion in the EV world. And a good day for those who’d love to short Tesla’s stock. It definitely hasn’t recovered since the first fire.

Yes…true. Precisely why we choose to not speculate at all…What do you think of our just the facts approach?

I think of it as “just”. Journalism in its most concentrated form. I’d be awaiting for the additional information.

As are we…awaiting details…But without any to go on, speculating is not responsible journalism.

More official details added

Updated again with additional image and more details.

That’s grand. At least it wasn’t stolen! The stream of immediate events like crashing off walls, electric fences and a tree. I’d be expecting Tesla would soon investigate into the details like what measure of forces were involved.

Wonder why an incident of 10/18 is coming out now? I can see political graft going to Mexico, to buy the story it wants.

No it means not wanting to deal with the Mexican police, which means jail and a good chance of being seriously mistreated there.

I don’t think you it was stolen for sure a drunk driver who crashed to a high speed, that is why they ran before the police arrived. . Tesla is so safe that even drunk drivers make it.

Yeah! Tesla’s appearing to have a habit of unfortunates and turning it around into its fortunes!

well it won’t be fun news when bystanders were hit

This looks bad to me, from the height of the flames, and the fact that it was not that severe a collision, as collisions go.

I’ve in the past I’ve criticized Tesla :’s’ battery from a “Lack of Insulation” standpoint, causing 65 mile vampire drain loss overnight in very cold weather. Now it seems this ‘battery out in the open’ design has safety concerns.

My Roadster is exactly the opposite. The battery is so well protected that the driver and passenger protect the battery. Before the roadster battery can get damaged, the Driver and passenger have to be long dead. But, it does not drain much in very cold weather.

GM Volt is to be congratulated for protecting its battery MORE than necessary, what with the additional side guard rails added.

Yeah, because no Chevy Volt has ever caught fire after an accident, especially not in controlled crash test simulations.

You’re part of the problem. ANY car would have significant problems after the kind of impact this article talks about.

Woah. Simmer down. He owns a Tesla and he stated why he is critical of the Model S battery pack protection compared to that of his roadster.

I don’t think that there is yet a case of an In-Service volt catching fire, ever, provided ‘battery draining’ procedures had been followed at the accident scene.

And, I don’t recall a Tesla Roadster Fire either, for the reason I mentioned.

I’ve spent hard cash purchasing outright 2 – 2011 EV’s. If I am “hindering” EV adoption, I’m sure more EV manufacturers would tolerate me as their “typical customer”.

I concur with Bill’s assessment. The Model S battery is in a vulnerable location. Both this accident and the Seattle fire caused by road debris indicates to me that someone needs to at least take a closer look at the battery design.

NHTSA is going to regret not investigating the Seattle fire. It was probably too late for them to do one since Tesla took possession of the car which would have tainted the investigation.

Considering the car was totaled anyway (a pretty reasonable definition of a ” severe crash,” IMHO), and the driver a) got out and b) walked away before the flames rose, I’m not sure this is much of a black eye for the company. The car was already toast, before it got toasty, and it did a better job of protecting the driver then he did of protecting himself (or others).

I love the Telsa S but the car should not catch fire in this sort of crash. What if the pasengers were trapped inside? It is not unforseen that crashes of this severity will happen again and it may be only a matter of time before someone is burnt alive. Elon Musk is my hero and I want him to succede but these fires cannot be explained away or ignored just because we want to see Tesla succede.

To be sure, the car did protect the occupants well. Upon further examination, this was a VERY SEVERE crash. Front left and likley front right wheel gone. Left rear Wheel severly damaged and likley hanging on by a tie-rod. Who knows about the right wheel? THe car was reported to go airborn!!! I still don’t like the fire but it is amazing these people survived this wreck let alone walked away. Needs to be a foam system that automatically deploys in the event of a crash. simple fix.

Mr bill howland sir,
We in india saw another facet of ICE today
I will take a model s anytime, thank you.

Yes, point taken that, world wide, there are also many substandard gasoline powered vehicles that alight too easily. Perhaps (Not trying to tell Indians what to do, since I am not one, nor do I live there), some litigation is needed to prod manufacturers there to manufacture safer products.

And, yes, to date, the Model S seems ‘satisfactory’ in the fire safety department. My gut reaction is that it is only ‘satisfactory’, and I would expect a car in the neighborhood of one hundred thousand $USD would be classified as better than satisfactory, but then others here have said as much.

Great opportunity to buy some TSLA below $170 before the Model X sales begin.


Looks like the exposed, unprotected skateboard battery is a design problem. I suppose these events are going to kill the battery swapping program if it still has life.

If that’s the case, why aren’t other EVs having the same problem? My i-MiEV has an exposed battery, surrounded by a plastic casing.

The problem is the SEVERITY of these accidents. ANY car would have problems with these kinds of accidents.

Your battery isn’t hanging down underneath the floor. And there are far fewer iMievs on the road, with a fraction of the range and performance capability of the Model S.

You cannot deny the fact that this is the second serious battery fire within a month with the Model S – whereas the Volt and I think also the LEAF both are fire free after three years and a billion miles driven.

Hoooooray, for 9+ second 0-60 times.
Some of this might just be a drunk behind the wheel of:


I’m sure Elon Musk will turn this fire from a negative to a plus. He’ll say the car well protected the driver and did not get hurt from a serious crash.

This fire looks like it was fed by gasoline. It’s to show those batteries do really burn like fuel.
The Tesla car uses thousands of laptop batteries and we all know those will burn. What I can not understand is the media says the Tesla is high tech…….nothing high tech using laptop batteries.
The media also says Tesla will teach a lesson in how to build cars to the major auto companies. What a laugh!

You’re probably not blowing 0-100 mph in the i-MiEV and there aren’t that many on the roads yet…


According to Wikipedia, over 22,000 i-MiEV’s and its Citroën and Peugeot clones had been sold by the end of 2012. That probably exceeds Model S sales so far, so there are probably more i-MiEV’s on the road than Model S’s. Like the Model S, the i-MiEV’s battery pack is below the floor pan, but I am unaware of any crash-related battery pack fires. The i-MiEV isn’t a hot rod like the Model S, so i-MiEV accidents may not be as violent.

And the severity of the crash is due to speed AND MASS. 5000 lbs. Wow!

The reason is that no other EV manufacturer is using this volatile battery chemistry!

Uh, Bill… Notice the rear tire isn’t in the normal position after landing / crashing into the tree. How can you you even suggest this was NOT a severe collsion???

Probably because like the Washington fire the body from the cowl rearward looks untouched. It’s pretty clear that the major damage occurred to the car’s undercarriage, as it plowed over the wall. Which would make it similar to the Washington fire which occurred due to undercarriage damage as well.

It doesn’t look like something Musk can brush off, not that he would. I’d have to look over Tesla’s results from their analysis of the WA car to get a clue as to where their minds are at regarding the Model S battery vulnerability.

Yes, the ‘sleeping T’ battery design and placement in the Volt looks pretty good now in light of what’s happening with the Model S.

The solution could be as simple as dividing the battery pack into 12 pieces connected together instead of having it all under one giant steel plate.

As it is, a 4500lb mass having its undercarriage impact something will almost assuredly damage the battery internals.

With divided sections, the joints between the battery plates would yield well before any individual section does. It doesn’t offer as much cabin intrusion protection, but we all know that’s secondary to preventing fires 😉

Isn’t that giant plate integral to the car’s structural strength? Doesn’t it need to be in one piece?

The picture of the wall is taken during the day, the video is during the night. I don’t get it.

The wall image was captured a day or two after the fire. Note: the fire occurred Oct 18. Lots of time between then and now. However, this story is just now breaking in the US.

So Tesla has known about this for a while?

We’re unsure on that…

Remain Calm. This is a very unlikely occurance and we should all return to our charging stations.

No kidding. Driver extricated, no burns known at this time. Slow starting fires may be the best reputational hope, but Musk’s quick math could get him in trouble. For this kind of damage, I’d still consider a Model S a big trade-up from any other PHEV out there.

Musk has Right, Left and the auto industry against him. I haven’t read anything net positive in recent months on Bloomberg, or in the NY Times. We know what’s up w/NYT, but breathing room is limited. You can’t expect truth when you have no agent, and no friends in media. Even some “friendlies” in our EV community are quick with their conclusions.

Insurance companies are going to be flummoxed where to set their rates on the Model S – super safe for passengers, but has self-destructive tendencies…


I think there is not nearly enough information to make the judgement that it is self destructive, but I’ll give you that for sake of argument even though I’m not convinced yet. I still think you are wrong because:

A. That much damage can total any car.

B. Decreasing the chances of major medical damages or loss of life (and the compensatory damages associated with either of those) would decrease potential damages WAY more than the price of even a $100k car.

Stuart’s right, Nate.

The car makes the driver want to accelerate too much by offering the mind-blowing ability to do so smoothly, and to drive fast by offering amazing road holding.

The car wants to destroy itself and coerces the driver to facilitate this.

Very simple, see? 😉

Haha, looks like its “amazing road holding” was pushed a little to far here:) I had the impression Stuart’s “self destructive tendencies” was about the fire risk and the battery pack placement, given the context of the conversation and his other comments. If you are saying Stuart statement was about the car being more likely to be involved in an accident due to its performance and driving characteristics I’m not so sure. At 5000lbs, the power to weight ratio is in the same ballpark as other cars in its price range so that idea is a wash. Your X factor is it due to the quick, smooth and quiet response it causes good drivers to turn into bad drivers. The same could be said about a great sounding engine perhaps. If the model was more prone to crashes and driving infractions that would be a consideration, but where is the data on that? If there is data that it reduces the risk of injury and death in a collision vs. its competitors, wouldn’t that lower rates? So for fun, I’ll log into my progressive account and see how much adding a P85 perfermance model adds to my premium, vs other… Read more »

Darn, I was hoping I could compare an M5 but Progressive didn’t have that model in their drop down list. So, I had to go with the cheaper and less powerful 550.

–Adding a BMW 550 to my policy added $739 for 6 months for me and my wife.
–Adding a Model S added just $565 for identical coverage.

So, Tesla owners will need to self destruct a lot more and come up with more drunk crashes and fires before the Model S catches up to the 550. Regardless I’ll stick to my 2013 Volt, as it compares at just $360. Before getting it, my quote on it was less than the 2013 Leaf for whatever reason.

I tried a few other cars for fun. The Mercedes S63 AMG would be $745 for me. A Corvette ZR-1 $756 . Wow, that’s not all that much more than the 550 despite recording 1.08g on skidpad and can take you to 140mph in 14 seconds! I wonder what these would cost to insure for a 21 year old NBA rookie.

I was indeed joking, with the grain of truth that high performance vehicles are often involved in accidents because of driver behavior.

Two fires in 100 million miles works out to a premium hike of $30 per year compared to a fireproof car. Which, you know, doesn’t exist in the first place…

This seems to vindicate the battery design to my mind. After all, would you rather the battery took the brunt of the impact, the occupants walked away, then a fire started that burnt so slowly that most of the car survived it? Or that the passengers got killed (by the tree) but the battery was fine cocooned in the centre of the car? Or perhaps you prefer the whole car exploding straight away killing those insdie and then burning to crisp? I know which car I’d want to be if I hit a tree with excessive speed!


Granted the Rear tire is a mystery… But the rest of the car looks relatively unscathed. Stuart22 seems to be onto something when he states that the car seems to have several vulnerabilies from underneath obstructions. I’m not an insurance adjuster, and do not claim to be Expert at reconstructing collision Cadence.

To the rest: Thanks for supporting my comments. I’m just calling ’em as I see ’em. I try not to criticize decisions others have made/ products they purchase too severly, nor criticize EV’s that I have not purchased too severly, and even complement design cues that they have, even though I’ve decided against purchasing the car for myself.

For instance, I think the Nissan Leaf has the perfect charger setup, and wish all cars had standardized on this arrangement.:

1). 3.3 kw for economy minded buyers.
2). 6.6 kw for the next trim level upgrade.
3). 6.6 kw J1772, and Chademo (the world’s most popular fast charging system) for luxury / and or special needs buyers.

I must be looking at a different set of photos than you and Stuart22. The top photo looks like it has a large tree slicing through the front of the car — I don’t see a front passenger wheel and it looks like there is a tree coming out of it. Maybe that’s not a tree though maybe that is some other large car mangling object. Maybe the tree it hit is on the passenger side — that’s a huge tree. The next picture with just the wall area and not the car — that wall doesn’t look like something that is all that insignificant.
Besides the front looking totalled, it looks like there’d be significant frame damage to the midsection of the car too. That car doesn’t look unscathed to me.

It could be I’m low on sleep and not interpreting these photos right, but this looks like a serious crash and a really messed up car.

Nate, I’d say those pictures are inconclusive – the tree might just be alongside the car, and the wall picture looks like there might have been a tall wall on the right side which transitioned to a low wall on the left side, and where the car went through it is impossible to be sure.

Whatever, the car looks like its entire underbody scraped over something, whacking the rear axle assembly as it plowed over the masonry to account for the twisted wheel. I’d wager the battery took a far worse hit than the car in Washington, where the fire was better contained.

Are u high or looking on a tiny phone screen that can’t zoom? The tree or wall is protruding from where the front tire should be. It is plane as day on my screen.

Bill Howland, I’ll take the 900 lbs of battery under me in a skateboard rather than behind me as in the Roadster every day of the week and twice on Sundays unless I wanted the battery to survive more than myself.

Well, that’s the gamble I take every time I drive my roadster , and I drive it alot. If the battery ever catches fire, I doubt I’ll ever know about it. On a previous post I gave a ‘gut reaction’ fire safety of the Model S as “Satisfactory”, but would have hoped for better on a $100k car.

I’ve prewired my garage in anticipation of purchasing an S or an X. Since my assessment of the relative safety of the vehicle is “satisfactory”, this doesn’t prevent me from buying one. I need to have the vampire drain of 65 miles/ night in very cold weather addressed before I’ll plunk down the CA$H. The Car as is , is perfect for Southern California weather, but I”m in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, My Chevy Volt is quite serviceable, has been proven exceptionally safe, and I’m not ashamed driving it since by far it usually operates electrically for the vast majority of miles driven..

Can it be concluded from the available reports that Tesla in California found the driver sooner than the police in Mexico?

The story above reports Tesla relating “the driver was safe”.

Perhaps…That does seem to be the case, doesn’t it?

Or did the driver find Tesla? 😉

How many gas car fires have we had this month?? If more then 3 I think we should stop producing them. It may be dangerous to drive around with 12 gallons of highly flammable liquid accelerant.

How many Leaf fires have there been this month? This year? 0

How many Volt fires have there been this month?

For the record, Tesla has had 2 in two weeks.

N=2. With they low a number the timing is not statistically relevant. Just as reasonable to conclude that leaf owners are less likely to drive drunk, or at high speeds. I know that in my focus electric, I baby the car, and hoard mileage by driving granny-style, more often than not. The idea of being carefree enough about mileage to drive like that is a (perverse) selling point for tesla, no?

N=1 is relevant to me if it was my car that caught fire

I drive my Leaf like a bat out of hell! But that is because I only put 45 miles a day on it and don’t need to worry about range so no need to baby it. It is a fun car to drive when you are in ‘point and shoot’ mode.

I’m an EV owner and think it is the future but I want to know about every Tesla or Leaf that catches on fire because we need to know if we should be concerned in the event of an accident. I’m concerned with the fact the car exploded and what if the driver was knocked unconsious? I want to know why the fire seemed to only engulf the engine compartment (which is good) but if the battery is the entire floorboard, why did just the front burn? If the fire would have burned longer, can we expect multiple explosions? There is so little known about these battery fires I think we all want to know more and not ignore them or write them off like nothing happened.

Well put, Tim.

Here’s another picture from the “cars driven by drunks, that can accelerate really fast” file:

By all means, let’s keep speculating on causality.

Humm, well I thought we were talking about comparing the relative safety of the various EV products on the market, but point taken that there can and have been some bad gasoline fires also.

I’m beginning to reconsider my previous opinion about the Chevy Volt battery being a “T-Shape” Now I’m starting to think this might be a better design from a safety prospective. I think there are a lot more Volts on the road than Teslas and so far the only fire a Volt experienced could have been prevented had proper procedure been followed. The Volt’s design has less of the battery surface area exposed to the underside of the car, and even in a side collision, it is likely the battery will not be damaged.

I’d agree. It seems there was some thought put into that design, and other EV designs that better protect the battery.

I think Tesla was too anxious to capitalize on the government EV credits for having a quick “charge” battery via a quick change battery.

The quick change battery puts the battery in a vulnerable location. This has now been empirically demonstrated, twice.

Wait until the other EV manufacturers that Musk has verbally trashed start pointing out this shortcoming on the Model S.

This is like a Gun.
It’s not an issue till a human gets a hold of it…..

People don’t kill Tesla’s……..road debris and poor battery placement does.

Quote David Murray…
“surface area exposed to the underside of the car, and even in a side collision, it is likely the battery will not be damaged.”

I’d rather the battery take the physical impact brunt and protect me than me taking the brunt and protect the battery.

Any questions?

I do believe the Volt and its inboard mounted battery scored high on all safety and collision tests, so just what point are you trying to make?

Not as high as the model S did!

Few EVs have the acceleration and large battery capacity that a typical Model S has.. So these types of incidents don’t surprise me, when you factor in human operator error. I believe it is stll true that no one has as of yet, ever died in any Tesla vehicle.

After watching crash tested Model S’s appear mostly undamaged (especially between the wheels) it impresses me just how well it withstood multiple collisions, before the rear axel broke when it landed. A typical gasoline vehicle experiencing the same obsticals / forces, might not have even made it thru the wall before killing its passengers and exploding.

Now, that makes sense to me. I think Human operator error is a key factor with the model s considering its power.

Maybe if all cars were designed to burst into flames when being driven by intoxicated persons, we wouldn’t have a DUI problem. It’s something to consider…

He drove the car through a concrete wall and walked away, like in the movies. The doors of the car still open. The fire is pretty crazy, but the fact that anyone walked away from that accident is a testament to the safety of the Tesla’s cabin. Two fires, zero serious injuries, one demolished wall. Not bad.

I’m surprised how easily the firefighter knocked down the flames, especially considering how vigorously they seemed to be burning up to that point. Unfortunately the video ends immediately afterwards so we can’t see if they flared up again – and for that matter we don’t know how long the fire was burning before the video starts either.

But I have to say I’m impressed if that’s how easily a battery fire can be doused – makes me feel even better about a worst-case scenario.

I also wonder if the FD had any training in dealing with EV fires? I would assume there’d be no way to access the high voltage disconnect points anyhow with the car so engulfed, but maybe they used some special type of spray? With the Washington accident, the firefighters reported difficulty attacking the flames, even using several different substances, and also that the fire kept flaring back up after appearing to be out.

I would venture to think that the FD in Mexico would not have any special training, knowledge or materials for battery fires.

It might be worth pointing out that this is not just about structural damage and the stiffness of the battery pack casing. It’s also about the relative volatility of different lithium ion chemistries, about their energy density, the mechanical construction of the cells and coolant type (if any). All these can play a role in a collision. I would not automatically assume that all EVs would behave the same when facing similar impact and damage to their battery pack.

Good point.

Just wait until automakers start putting batteries in body panels if you think the Tesla crash is bad.

Why am I having a flashback of Ralph Nader furiously banging away on a typewriter?

If your infant is in a car seat and you are icapacitated that fire would be a big problem

The problem is not the design, but the high rate of speed. Any car is going to be a mess when you smash it at high speeds.

Anybody else always seeing a horrible ad for nail fungus on this page? — dang.

Nope. You might want to check your nails, those adds are personalized:)

Very interesting! The flames were bigger than I imagined and I certainly didn’t expect it to explode like it did. The good news is it did not seem that the FD didn’t have any problem distinguishing the fire though. Most concerned about the explosion as gasoline tanks, despite what they dipict in TV and movies, don’t normally explode like this did.

So… Tesla went through a wall, bounce from a concrete divider into a tree and the driver RUN away? Hey Elon you build a TANK and you did not tell us, I hit a puddle and I bent my rims!!!

It’s a good thing the driver of this dangerous electric automobile was drunk or he might of been killed!

The 2 or 3 explosions during this short video are the most frightening for me. There is one where there is a very BRILLIANT flash along with a loud bang. Did this cause some insurvivable percussion in the cabin, or were projectiles thrown around in the cabin? Also, the video is grainy but I thought I saw flames IN the cabin at some point. Not reassuring at all. If there were small children strapped in, or for some reason a person was incapacitated, being in that cabin while explosions were happening is frightening, and the question must be asked, if in a short video there are at least 2, how many explosions overall were there?