Investigators in the Florida Keys are evaluating a fatal accident that involved a 2019 Tesla Model S automobile. The big question for investigators is whether or not the semi-autonomous driving feature of the car was turned on when it plowed through an intersection and caused the death of a woman.
The car failed to come to a stop at a three-way intersection where Card Sound Road becomes County Road 905. The Tesla struck a pickup truck that was parked on the shoulder of the road. The impact of the crash sent the pickup truck spinning into a female pedestrian that was walking nearby.
Twenty-two-year-old Benevides Leon Naibel was knocked approximately 80 feet from where she walked into a nearby wooded area. The accident took place at 9:15 P.M on April 25.
Anquillo Dillion, 27, was walking with Naibel and was also seriously injured in the crash. He was airlifted from the scene and taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Lt. Alejandro Camacho, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol says the agency is looking into whether or not the vehicle’s driver, George McGee controlled the car when the accident took place. There is a reason to suspect the vehicle’s Autopilot Navigation System was engaged.
According to Sheriff’s Deputies, McGee was traveling to an exclusive gated community in the area known as Queen Reef.
Camacho informed media sources recently that the investigation into the matter has not yet been concluded.
The Navigation by Autopilot feature of Tesla vehicles allows for semi-autonomous driving of the cars. When the feature is activated, the car will drive itself but the driver’s hands have to be on the steering wheel. The National Safety Transportation Administration explains an alert will sound if the driver removes his or her hands from the steering wheel.
Tesla has made public its goal to produce a car that is completely self-driven by next year. But it is doubtful this goal will be reached now that Navigation by Autopilot has been named at least partially responsible for a number of crashes on American highways in the past five years.
Tesla did not respond to questions regarding the recent crash in the Florida Keys.
Mike Tein, an attorney for McGee would not respond to questions regarding the activation of the car’s Navigation by Autopilot feature. Tein offered his condolences to the families involved and said he would respect the privacy of the affected parties until the investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol is completed.
Deputy Joel Torres was first on the scene following the tragic accident. Torres’ body camera caught footage of McGee telling the officer he was driving the car when he dropped his phone. The frightened motorist says he looked down to find the phone and inadvertently ran a stop sign.
McGee says he left his car to render aid to Dillion but was unaware of the woman who had been killed in the accident. Naibel was not located in the woods until at least ten minutes after paramedics were on the scene. The body camera footage from Deputy Torres shows the moment first responders and accident witnesses saw her along the tree line.
A minute before Naibel was found a witness alerted Torres to the presence of flip flops that obviously belonged to a lady under the pickup truck. A few moments later a woman could be heard saying ‘she’s in the bushes.’
There was no indication McGee consumed alcohol before the accident but it was clear he did not press on his brakes before the collision.
The Tesla’s event data recorder will be examined to further evaluate what caused the deadly accident.