Wife of doctor who died in fiery Tesla crash speaks about impact on family

Suit alleges Omar Awan trapped after battery, door handles malfunction

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Dr. Omar Awan was driving his car on Flamingo Road in Davie on a Sunday afternoon last February when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a palm tree at a high speed, witnesses said.

After the impact, the vehicle's ion battery caused smoke and then fire to engulf the cabin while Awan was trapped inside. First responders were unable to pull Awan from the vehicle, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

"There was just no way anybody could have saved whoever was in there," witness Mark Dodds, who lives nearby, said at the time of the accident.

Awan’s wife, Liliana Awan, M.D., is the plaintiff in the Oct. 10 lawsuit filed in Broward County court against Tesla Motors, Inc. She addressed the media on Monday to discuss the crash and its impact on her family. 

"It is hard because my little ones can't comprehend (because) the concrete thinking doesn't set in until the age of 9," Awan said.

The youngest of the couple's five children are 6 and 8 years old.

She and the children are seeking an unspecified dollar amount in damages due to negligence by Tesla, the lawsuit reads.

The suit alleges negligence by the automaker for its design and warnings about the danger of the futuristic features of the vehicle.

Among the design flaws are the vehicle’s door handles which recess automatically and then have an "auto-present" feature to allow someone to open the vehicle when the keyless entry fob is near. The lawsuit claims that the door handles malfunctioned, hindering first responders’ ability to open the door to the vehicle.

The suit also alleges that the battery was not properly secured with safety measures to prevent or minimize the fire risks if the ion battery were to catch fire.

Following the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board found that the Tesla's lithium ion battery was the source of the fire. It reignited twice, first as police transported the car away from the crash scene and again when investigators tried to remove the battery from the burned-out remains of the vehicle.

In May, two teenagers were killed when their speeding Tesla crashed into a wall in Fort Lauderdale. The crash caused the car's electric battery to catch fire.

In 2013, Tesla announced that the Model S had received the “best safety rating of any car ever tested” following an independent test by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Tesla interpreted the results and said the vehicle was awarded 5.4 stars, a "new combined record."

 The NHTSA does not offer ratings above 5, and following the claim by Tesla, amended its advertising guidelines to prohibit automakers from claiming safety ratings above 5.

The lawsuit has demanded a jury trial.

About the Authors: