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UPDATED: Three Tesla employees are killed in California plane crash

Wed, 17 Feb 2010 00:00:00 -0800

Three employees of Tesla Motors were killed in a small airplane crash in northern California on Wednesday, the electric-car maker's chief executive said.

A Cessna 310 struck an electrical tower after taking off this morning and crashed into a residential neighborhood, killing all three people on board, according to local police. Tesla confirmed all had worked at the company.

Tesla is withholding the employees' names while it works with authorities to notify their families, CEO Elon Musk said.

"Tesla is a small, tightly-knit company, and this is a tragic day for us," Musk said.

Tesla is one of the best-known companies in an emerging electric-car industry that is growing as more people seek clean-energy alternatives in their daily lives.

Tesla filed for an initial public offering of up to $100 million last month. The company was cofounded by and is currently run by Musk, an entrepreneur who made his fortune as cofounder of online payments service provider PayPal.

The three employees were midlevel engineers, said a person familiar with the matter, who was not authorized to give details about the fatalities.

The plane was registered to Air Unique Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif. Air Unique was registered with Tesla engineer Doug Bourn. It was not known whether Bourn was on board.

The plane left the Palo Alto Airport at about 7 a.m. PST bound for Hawthorne Municipal Airport in Southern California. It lost power before striking the tower, breaking off a wing, East Palo Alto Police Department Cpt. John Chalmers said.

The wing hit a house, causing a fire. The rest of the aircraft struck parked vehicles, Chalmers said. There were no reports of injuries on the ground, Chalmers said.

According to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor, the plane crashed about one mile northeast of the airport.

The FAA said it does not know whether the foggy weather was a factor. Three FAA safety investigators were on the scene, and a National Transportation Safety Board investigator was scheduled to arrive Thursday.

Wired.com said it had confirmed that J. B. Straubel, Tesla's chief technology officer, wasn't aboard.




By Staff Reports