- 69-year-old Everette Talbot has been named as the second victim of a Tesla crash in Texas.
- He and friend Dr William Varner died after the car crashed into a tree and caught fire.
- Police say no-one was driving, but Elon Musk has contested that.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The second victim in the Texas Tesla crash has been named, as police and CEO Elon Musk continue to offer conflicting accounts of how the vehicle was being driven when it crashed.
69-year-old Everette Talbot is one of two people who died in a blazing crash in a Houston-area suburb Saturday evening, according to ABC News.
Talbot’s name was reported two days after that of the other victim, his close friend 59-year-old Dr William Varner. They crashed just a few hundred yards away from where they set out in the Tesla Model S.
The car, traveling at high speed, failed to negotiate a bend and came off the road on Hammock Dunes Place, a residential street in a upscale Houston suburb. The car crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
Police say they are sure that at the time of the crash nobody was driving the car, which is famous for its ability to partially operate itself.
Musk, however, has said that data from the car shows that its Autopilot mode was not engaged, prompting questions about what was happening behind the wheel.
Constable Mark Herman of Harris County Precinct 4 told local outlet KHOU 11 that deputies who recovered the bodies “are 100% certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact.”
Herman said that the bodies were in the front passenger seat and a rear seat. An unnamed family member told local news outlet that KPRC 2 that the owner had backed out of the driveway, and then may have moved to the back seat.
In a tweet on Monday Musk said: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD.”
FSD is Tesla’s Full Self-Driving mode. When switched on, Autopilot keeps a car centered in its lane and maintains a steady distance from other vehicles, but does not make cars autonomous. Full Self-Driving mode automates more driving tasks, but the company says it still requires a driver’s full attention.
In response to Musk’s tweet, Herman told Reuters that he “will eagerly wait for that data.”
The crash is now under investigation by both the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The investigations could take as long as two years to determine what happened.
Justin Kendrick, the SVP and CEO at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center where Varner worked, told ABC that he was a “tremendous human being.”
Local news reporter Ivory Hecker posted an image of Varner which he said came form his colleagues:
-Ivory Hecker FOX 26 (@IvoryHecker) April 20, 2021
According to DailyMail.com, Talbot ran a financial firm. He has also been described in local reports as an engineer. His daughter told the outlet: “We are going through a living hell right now. As his daughter, I asked everyone to wait for the investigation to be completed.”
Early local reports, citing Herman, had said that the blaze could not be extinguished for four hours. This account has been disputed by Palmer Buck of The Woodlands Township Fire Department according to the Houston Chronicle.
“With respect to the fire fight, unfortunately, those rumors grew out way of control,” he said. “It did not take us four hours to put out the blaze. Our guys got there and put down the fire within two to three minutes, enough to see the vehicle had occupants.”
What did take hours was what firefighters call “final extinguishment,” the Chronicle reported, as electric car batteries can continue to flare up even after the fire is under control. “We had to keep it cool, were on scene for four hours, but we were simply pouring a little bit of water on it,” Buck said.