onsdag 17. februar 2010

Three Tesla execs reported dead in Palo Alto plane crash — CEO Musk not involved

[Update: Tesla CEO Elon Musk was not involved in the plane crash this morning, according to a reliable source who has been in contact with his assistant since the accident. However, the plane's passengers may have been on their way to meet with him on the site of his spacecraft manufacturing firm SpaceX.]
A small passenger plane piloted by a top executive at Tesla Motors crashed into a house in East Palo Alto, Calif. before 8 a.m. this morning, killing the pilot and two other passengers — all employees at the electric car company, which Tesla has confirmed, according to automotive blog Jalopnik. No names have been released, but the company says an official statement will be released soon.
Identified as a 1976 twin-engine Cessna 310, the plane took off from Palo Alto’s tiny commuter airport and was on its way to Hawthorne Municipal Airport outside Los Angeles. It didn’t get far, crashing into electric power lines and exploding in the nearby neighborhood only minutes later. Observers at the scene remarked that the fog was particularly heavy over the region today.
The plane, said to be owned by Tesla senior electrical engineer Doug Bourn, was registered to Air Unique, his jet company in Santa Clara, Calif. It has not been confirmed that Bourn himself was on the plane.
The accident has caused a city-wide blackout for the last several hours, but no other fatalities or injuries have been reported. Water and phone outages have also been reported.
Notably, the Hawthorne airport is also the site of  SpaceX, the spaceship manufacturing company owned and operated by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. The company is preparing for a March 22 test launch of its Falcon 9 cargo space vehicle, which could be used to supply the International Space Station as soon as next year. A lot is riding on the craft’s success, considering how much emphasis President Barack Obama has placed on outsourcing space programs to private companies.
Our source mentioned that the plane’s passengers may have been flying to meet with Musk, who is in Southern California working on SpaceX, where he has been spending more time and attention recently. Hawthorne is also home to some Tesla operations.
The house the plane struck doubles as a daycare center for more than 20 local children, but was fortunately empty at the time of the crash.
This was supposed to be a happy day for the electric car startup, with Musk receiving the 2010 Automotive Executive of the Year Innovator Award from DNV Certification.
We will update this story as more details become available.
[Image via LALate News]

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