PALO ALTO, Calif. --- A small plane crashed into a residential area in Northern California Wednesday morning, killing all three people aboard. The three are employees of Tesla Motors, an innovative car company that makes electric vehicles.
The plane took off in a heavy fog at Palo Alto Airport just before 8 a.m. It lost power shortly thereafter, said East Palo Alto police Capt. John Chalmers. It hit a power line or an electrical tower about one mile northeast of the airport, shearing a wing, and crash-landed on a home daycare center, which quickly caught fire. The plane then slid down the street, hitting three cars that also ignited. No one on the ground was injured.
The plane was bound for the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, where Tesla has a design studio. In a statement, Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirms the people on the plane were company employees:
"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.”
A man who said he had flown with the pilot told KTVU News the man flying the twin-engine plane was “a high-ranking official” at Tesla, but did not give his name. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the plane is owned by Doug Bourn, a senior electric engineer at Tesla, though it is not clear whether he was aboard.
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While it is still too early to definitively determine what caused the crash, Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman told the San Jose Mercury News mechanical failure or poor visibility due to the heavy fog most likely caused the crash.
“The plane landed in the center of the street,” Schapelhouman said. “If not, many more individuals would have been impacted, perhaps killed. It is either very fortunate or intentional that he was able to do that.”
Tesla has so far produced one electric car -- a Roadster that goes from 0-60 in an astonishing 4 seconds. The low production car also costs a whopping $109,000. The company is currently working on a sedan, and recently announced it would offer stock to the public in an IPO. It's not clear if the loss of these employees will force the company to alter its plans.