More than two years after a fiery crash that killed two people, a Draper man has been charged with manslaughter after he allegedly drove his Tesla 100 mph on North Temple in Salt Lake City, ran a red light and slammed into another car.
The charges came three weeks after Lincoln Richard Bywater filed a lawsuit against Tesla, claiming he was a passenger in the car and that it “suddenly accelerated” before the collision.
Bywater, 29, was charged in 3rd District Court with two counts of manslaughter, second-degree felonies; reckless driving, a Class B misdemeanor; and three infractions — speeding, failure to wear a seat belt and failure to obey a traffic control device.
On Jan. 5, 2020, a Tesla Model S and a Nissan Sentra collided at the intersection of North Temple and 900 West. According to the charges, surveillance video from nearby TRAX stations showed the Tesla traveling “at a high rate of speed,” running a red light and hitting the Nissan. Data retrieved from the Tesla showed it was traveling at 100 mph before the accident and at about 89 mph when it struck the Nissan.
The speed limit on North Temple is 30 mph.
The Tesla burst into flames after the collision, and its battery exploded. Two people in the Nissan — Sarina Grace Astorga, 50, and Joseph Lucero, 35 — died of injuries suffered in the crash.
Using video footage from TRAX stations, local businesses and “other buildings,” police tracked the Tesla back to the Grand America Hotel, according to the charges. At the hotel, Bywater was seen on video getting into the driver’s seat of the car and a second man got in the front passenger seat, police said. Data from the Tesla showed it remained in drive from the time it left the Grand America until the accident; that no doors were opened; that the driver and the passenger remained in their seats; and that neither was wearing a seatbelt.
Tests showed that Bywater had a blood alcohol content of .20 at the time of the crash — four times the legal limit of 0.05.
On Jan. 4, Bywater sued Tesla, asserting that he was a passenger in the car, which “suddenly accelerated” as it approached the intersection of 900 West and North Temple. The lawsuit also alleges that the car had “design defects that caused the vehicle to suddenly and unexpectedly accelerate.”
According to the lawsuit, Bywater suffered “severe and disfiguring personal injuries” and spent “over a year” in the hospital recovering. The lawsuit does not specify how much money Bywater is seeking, but points to “economic damages” as well as “loss of the opposability of his right thumb, disfigurement, pain and suffering, emotional distress and mental anguish.”