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Suit: Man Died in 'Death Trap' Tesla Due to Door Malfunction

Omar Awan burned in Model S crash after rescuers couldn't get to him: complaint
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2019 8:40 AM CDT
In this July 28, 2019, file photograph, an unsold 2019 Model S sits at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colo.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(Newser) – A 48-year-old anesthesiologist died an unnecessary death earlier this year in a fiery Tesla crash, according to a new lawsuit that claims the car's design was what ended up killing him. Dr. Omar Awan was burned "beyond recognition" after his Model S veered off the road and crashed on Feb. 24 in Davie, Fla. The car's lithium-ion battery subsequently caught fire and the door handles malfunctioned, leaving Awan, who survived the impact, unable to get out or rescuers to get in, per the wrongful death complaint cited in the Washington Post. Awan died in the "death trap," the suit says, "all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk." Per the complaint, the retractable door handles on the Model S are supposed to pop out when a key fob is detected nearby, but in this case they didn't.

"After the Tesla hit the tree, [Awan] was alive," the suit notes, per Newsweek. "He had no internal injuries or broken bones. He died from the smoke he inhaled as he sat locked inside." The Broward County autopsy report cited by the Post backs that up, noting that Awan's cause of death was "inhalation of products of combustion with a contributory cause of death of thermal injuries." Stuart Grossman, the attorney for Awan's family, says what makes the doctor's death doubly tragic is that Awan purposely chose the Tesla Model S over luxury cars he could afford, like a Mercedes, because he was concerned about both the environment and safety, the latter of which Tesla has boasted about. (Read more Tesla stories.)

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