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Ripped- off Tesla Model S erupts during high-speed car chase

California dealership.
California dealership.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

An attempt to steal a Tesla Model S sedan from a dealership in West Hollywood, CA Friday almost turned deadly for the car thief after the vehicle split in two after crashing into a light pole during a high speed police pursuit. The crash also caused the hybrid’s battery pack to ignite and set the vehicle on fire. The Tesla also hit four cars, injuring 7 people, including the car thief, who was ejected from the vehicle, before splitting in two. While the rear part of the Tesla ended up imbedded in the side of alocal synagogue, the other landed on top of a white car according to Sgt. Campbell of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Division. Although the man driving the Tesla was “originally thought to have died, he was resuscitated while en route to a hospital.” One of the cars, a Honda Civic, had 5 passengers inside when the Tesla smashed into it. At least one was critically injured.

Campbell also stated that the incident was triggered when police received a call from the Tesla dealership about an “individual seen tampering or messing with one of the cars. The car chase began around 12:45 am. Witnesses on the scene told KTLA news that they heard the explosions, but thought they were fireworks at first before realizing what happened.

“There were fires after that that broke out,” Eric Martinez told reporters. “I saw the like 25 firefighters standing around the white car with the Jaws of Life.”

Although the company has declined to comment on this tragic incident, Tesla did state they are cooperating fully with the police investigation regarding the fire. The Model S has been the subject of previous safety investigations after a number of the cars caught fire following collisions with metal road debris last fall. However, it should be noted that the NHTSA announced in November that, "After reviewing all available data, they had not found evidence at that time that would indicate the recent battery fire involving a Tesla Model S was the result of a vehicle safety defect or noncompliance with federal safety standards."

Still, the agency did follow-up that report with a preliminary evaluation to determine "the potential risks associated with undercarriage strikes on model year 2013 Tesla Model S vehicles, which was finally closed on March 28, 2014, after Tesla installed a new titanium underbody shield and aluminum deflector plates, along with increased ground clearance to the cars as a further safety measure against any potential "underbody strikes and the resultant fire risk.”