Tesla driver killed after plowing into firetruck on freeway

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — A Tesla driver was killed and a passenger was critically injured Saturday when the automobile plowed right into a firetruck that was parked on a Northern California freeway to shield a crew clearing one other accident, fire officials said.

4 firefighters who were within the truck when it was struck on Interstate 680 were treated for minor injuries, said Tracie Dutter, assistant chief of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

The driving force was declared dead on the scene, Dutter said. The automobile needed to be cut open to remove the passenger, who was taken to the hospital.

Photos showed the front end of the automobile was crushed and the $1.4 million ladder truck was damaged.

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Lane said it was not clear whether the motive force can have been intoxicated or whether the Tesla Model S was operating with automation or driving assistance features.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating how Tesla’s Autopilot system detects and responds to emergency vehicles parked on highways. A minimum of 14 Teslas have crashed into emergency vehicles while using the system.

Dutter said the truck had its lights on and was parked diagonally on northbound lanes of the freeway to guard responders to an earlier accident that didn’t lead to injuries.

The fatal accident occurred around 4 a.m., and it took several hours to clear the freeway. The firetruck needed to be towed away.

The Model S was among the many nearly 363,000 vehicles Tesla recalled on Thursday due to potential flaws in its “Full Self-Driving” system. While the recall is geared toward correcting possible problems at intersections and with speed limits, it comes amid a broader investigation by U.S. safety regulators into Tesla’s automated driving systems.

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