Tesla Model S and RoadsterEnlarge Photo
Tesla's new facility in Palo Alto, CaliforniaEnlarge Photo
UPDATE (February 18): The three men killed in the plane crash have now been identified. They were senior electric engineer Doug Bourn, electrical engineer Andrew Ingram and Brian M. Finn, a senior manager of interactive electronics.
Tesla Motors has not yet confirmed the identities, and the San Mateo County coroner will hold a press conference at noon Pacific time to release the information.
(February 17, 2010) The power in the High Gear Media home office in Palo Alto is out right now, and it couldn't be for a worse reason. Three Tesla Motors employees, including a high-ranking official for the company, were killed in a plane crash in East Palo Alto this morning, shortly after takeoff from the nearby Palo Alto Airport.
It's unknown who was onboard the plane, but we have confirmed through our sources that Tesla vice president of communications Ricardo Reyes and vice president of business development Diarmuid O'Connell were not on board the flight. CEO Elon Musk was also not involved in the crash.
Elon Musk said via Twitter, "We lost 3 employees in a plane crash today. We're a small company and this is a tragic day. Our thoughts go out to their families." Musk also said in a statement today, "Three Tesla employees were on board a plane that crashed in East Palo Alto early this morning. We are withholding their identities as we work with the relevant authorities to notify the families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Tesla is a small, tightly-knit company, and this is a tragic day for us."
Residents heard an explosion and saw the wreckage as it impacted a residential street. The plane appears to have crashed into power lines, exploding on impact. The reason for the crash of the twin-engine Cessna isn't yet known, and the FAA hasn't released the names of those on board. Poor visibility due to foggy conditions are thought to have been a contributing factor, according to Mercury News.
There were no injuries on the ground, though one home was set ablaze by pieces of the debris. One of the homes in the area normally houses a daycare facility, but it was empty at the time of the crash.
It's not yet clear what effect, if any, the deaths will have on Tesla's day-to-day and long-term operations. The incident reminds us of the death of two of Volkswagen's top executives on Pan Am Flight 103. The terrorist attack on the plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, took the lives of all on board, including James Fuller, chief of VW of America, and marketing director Lou Marengo. Fuller had been behind the development of the Rallye GTI and a strong proponent of the Golf GTI's presence in America.
Details on the Palo Alto crash are still developing, but we'll keep you up-to-date. You can keep up with the story yourself at the area news outlets below, or with Jalopnik's early and continuing coverage of the disaster.