The Texas men killed in a fiery crash involving a self-driving Tesla Model S were friends who took the car for a spin after dropping off their wives, officials said.
Dr. Will Varner, 59, and Everett Talbot, 69, both died when the driverless car crashed into a tree and burst into flames Saturday night in The Woodlands, a neighborhood in Houston, news station KTRK reported.
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Neither man was believed to be driving at the time of the crash.
Varner, an anesthesiologist believed to be the owner of the car, was found in the back seat, while Talbot, who ran a financial firm, was in the passenger seat, the Daily Mail reported.
“We are going through a living hell right now. As his daughter, I asked everyone to wait for the investigation to be completed,” Talbot’s daughter told the outlet.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have said they will send teams to investigate the deadly crash.
Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said officials are “very confident just with the positioning of the bodies after the impact that there was no one driving that vehicle,” news station KHOU reported.
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk denied on Monday on Twitter that the car was on autopilot.
“Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD,” he said, referring to premium Full Service driving software, which costs $10,000.
“Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have,” he added.
The fatal crash occurred on Saturday just moments after the men had dropped off their wives at a home in Spring and left in the vehicle on a test drive, KTRK reported.
Varner was remembered by his employer, Memorial Hermann, in a statement.
“Dr. Varner was a tremendous human being who personally impacted many throughout our Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center family over the years,” the statement obtained by KTRK said.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family, and also to those who had the privilege of working and serving alongside him in various capacities. He will be dearly missed by so many.”