Tesla crash victim’s autopsy shows his alcohol level was around twice the legal limit for Texas, reports say

The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed, killing two people in The Woodlands, Texas, on April 17, 2021. Scott J. Engle/Reuters

  • A man who died in a Tesla crash in April was over the legal alcohol limit, Bloomberg News reported.
  • William Varner and Everette Talbot were killed when Varner’s Tesla Model S crashed near Houston.
  • Varner’s blood-alcohol level was higher than the 0.08% legal limit in Texas, Reuters reported.

One of two men who died in a Tesla crash in April had a blood alcohol level about twice the legal limit, reports said.

William Varner and Everette Talbot were killed when the Tesla Model S they were riding in crashed and caught fire near Houston, Texas. Police said the men were found in the back seat of the vehicle, raising questions about whether the vehicle had been driven by Autopilot, Tesla’s self-driving technology.



Varner’s blood had more than the legal limit of alcohol, Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing an autopsy report received through a records request. Varner had been seen getting in the vehicle’s driver’s seat, the report said.

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said Varner had 0.151 g/100mL of grain alcohol in his blood, topping the 0.08% that’s legal for a Texas driver, Reuters reported. Talbot also had alcohol in his blood, Bloomberg News reported.

Varner and Talbot both died from “blunt force trauma” and “thermal injuries,” according to their autopsy reports.

Insider has reached out to Tesla for comment.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in April that it was likely someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash. Police have said otherwise.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration on August 13 opened an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system. This includes studying how it handles the flashing lights of first-responder vehicles.

It said the investigation would cover 11 crashes in nine states and include 765,000 Teslas Model Y, Model X, Model S, and Model 3 vehicles made since 2014.

“Most incidents took place after dark and the crash scenes encountered included scene control measures such as first responder vehicle lights, flares, an illuminated arrow board, and road cones,” the Office of Defects Investigation said in its preliminary evaluation of 11 crashes.

The NHTSA last week added a 12th crash to its investigation.

That crash occurred at about 5am last Saturday, when a 27-year-old operating an EV with Autopilot crashed into a Florida Highway Patrol vehicle on the side of a highway.

The Tesla “narrowly missed” a trooper who was outside the police vehicle, The Associated Press reported. The trooper, who was unhurt, had pulled over to assist a parked vehicle. The police said a trooper outside the vehicle was “extremely lucky” the Tesla missed him.

“Trooper was outside of car and extremely lucky to have not been struck,” the Florida Highway Patrol said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The Tesla driver and the driver of the parked vehicle both had minor injuries, a police spokesperson told The Orlando Sentinel.

The NHSTA investigation came after years of one-off Tesla crash investigations by the administration. Between June 2016 and May 2021, the NHSTA investigated 36 crashes that involved Tesla EVs or other vehicles with self-driving features, according to a list of investigations Insider requested from the agency in June.



Thirty of those investigations involved Tesla vehicles, although three of the Tesla crashes occurred when the vehicles were “not in Autopilot,” according to the NHTSA list.

Eight of those one-off investigations involving Teslas resulted in fatalities, while another five had serious or severe injuries as results, according to the NHTSA.

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