Dutchman dies in Tesla crash; firefighters feared electrocution

September 7, 2016 12:59 PM EDT

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By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A Dutchman died on Wednesday after his Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) collided with a tree, according to local authorities, and it took firefighters hours to remove his body from the vehicle due to fears they could be electrocuted.

The cause of the crash on a highway about 40 kilometers east of Amsterdam was not known. Photos of the crash scene published by local media showed the back of the car mostly intact but its front smashed in and parts strewn about.

Tesla said it was "working with the authorities to establish the facts of the incident" and would publish its findings as soon as they were available. A spokeswoman said it was not known whether the car was using "autopilot", Tesla's driving assistance technology, at the time of the crash, and that would form part of the investigation.

A fatal crash of a Tesla Model S in the United States earlier this year knocked the company's shares and raised concerns about whether automated driving technology was being released to consumers safely.

The Dutch vehicle regulator RDW is the authority which issues road worthiness certificates for Teslas in Europe.

Fire department spokesman Ronald Boer said guidelines for dealing with electric car crashes were well established in the Netherlands. But due to the nature and severity of the wreckage, firefighters could not be certain whether the car might be under high voltage.

Newspaper De Telegraaf reported the car's battery was broken, and part of it caught fire and was difficult to extinguish. Part of the battery remained inside the car, the paper said, leading to the fears of electrocution.

De Boer said since firefighters were certain the victim had died immediately after the crash, it did not make sense for rescue workers to take unneeded risks in recovering his body.

Specialists from Tesla's offices in the south of the country were called in for advice, arriving five hours after the crash.

The scene was judged safe and the man's body was then cut free from the wreck without further incident.

"We know a lot about electric cars, but there are always going to be cases where something unexpected happens," Boer said. "There are going to be educational moments."

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Additional reporting by Laurence Frost and Edward Taylor; Editing by Mark Potter)



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