PARIS — The off-duty taxi driver who crashed a Tesla Model 3 in Paris on Saturday night plowed through metal posts, a row of pay-to-ride bicycles, a recycling bin full of glass and hit pedestrians and a van before finally coming to a halt, witnesses said.
Tillard Diomande was serving clients from behind his bar in the Moonlight African restaurant when the Tesla careened past. When he stepped outside, he said it was carnage.
“I thought it was an attack. There was glass, dust … it was as if there had been a blast,” Diomande told Reuters.
One person was killed, three were seriously hurt and another 17 injured in the accident in the 13th arrondissement of the capital on a street lined with bars, restaurants and shops.
A judicial source said that an investigation into involuntary homicide by the driver had been opened.
“Heard explosion, silence, cries. A war scene below. Very, very shocking,” a teacher who lives in an apartment above the crash site told Reuters via Twitter.
CCTV video footage from inside the nearby Sarawan restaurant shows a black car racing down Avenue d’Ivry at high speed, followed by a loud crash a couple of seconds later.
Diners turn their heads and in the direction the car was traveling. One woman puts a hand over her mouth, another clasps her hands to her chest and people outside run towards the crash.
G7 Deputy Chief Executive Yann Ricordel told Reuters the accident occurred while an off-duty taxi driver was taking his family to a restaurant. The driver tried to brake but the car accelerated instead, Ricordel said.
A police source told Reuters that the car, which had stopped at a red traffic light, suddenly sped forward, hitting and dragging with it a cyclist who later died.
It was not clear whether the car was operating in Tesla’s Autopilot mode, which handles some driving tasks. The driver tested negative in an alcohol test, the police source said.
The driver told investigators he had deliberately steered the car into objects to bring it to a halt.
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news conference that Tesla had informed the government there was no immediate indication that a technical fault was to blame.
“We have been in contact, of course, with Tesla’s management and they tell us that there is no technical problem to flag on their vehicles,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters.
Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told RMC radio that he had spoken with the chief executive of Tesla Europe, who told him there had been no safety alerts about the Model 3.
He added that the automaker, which collects detailed data from the sensors and cameras on its vehicles, notified him that it had provided the relevant technical data to investigators.
Paris taxi company G7 has suspended the use of the 37 Model 3 cars in its fleet after the accident.
Waiter Idris Benlalli witnessed the end of the Tesla’s destructive path.
He said the electric car destroyed a rank of hire bicycles and sent a glass recycling bin flying several meters through the air before shards of glass sprayed the area.
The Tesla came to a halt at busy road intersection, its front-left corner crumpled, windscreen shattered and entire left-hand side badly damaged.
Debris lay strewn across the tarmac.
“There were quite a few people on the ground,” Benlalli said. “It was chaos.”