What we know about the deadly Tesla crash in Pasadena

The Pasadena Police Department released more information Tuesday about the violent wreck of a speeding Tesla that claimed the lives of three young people early Saturday morning — and narrowly avoided more casualties.

According to the police, 22-year-old Moheb Samuel was driving over 100 mph on E. Foothill Boulevard shortly after 2:30 a.m. Saturday when he narrowly missed crashing into a car driving north at the intersection of Foothill and Sierra Madre Boulevard. The Tesla then veered off the road, crashed through a streetlight and became airborne after striking a curb on the north side of the road.

The Tesla traveled about 130 feet through the air before smashing into a power pole and the building, police said. Two people in the car died, as did a third who was ejected from the back seat; three other passengers survived but were seriously injured.

Who was in the car during the crash

Samuel, the driver, died at the scene, Pasadena police said. A varsity soccer player in high school, he graduated from Maranatha High School, a private Christian school in Pasadena, in 2020. In September, Samuel was pulled over and accused of driving under the influence of alcohol; according to court records, he was arraigned in a Pasadena courtroom in March.

A worker works on a building destroyed and a memorial grows where three people died and

A worker works on a building destroyed and a memorial grows where three people died and three were severely injured after their Tesla crashed while traveling at speeds of over 100 mph in Pasadena Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Friends called him Mo, according to people who visited the makeshift memorial at the crash site. Among the memorial’s flowers and votive candles, friends also left behind a soccer ball.

Stefan Michael Pfeiffer, 20, from Pasadena also died at the scene. He was one of the three passengers thrown from the back seat of the car during the crash, according to police.

“He was a humble guy and he didn’t like to show off. He was just very sweet to his grandfather and grandmother,” Pfeiffer’s friend 20-year-old Sergio Nava said at the crash site on Monday as his voice broke.

The passenger in the Tesla’s front seat also died at the scene. Police have identified him only as a 22-year-old man, pending the notification of his family. Family members told news station KTLA that the man is Esrom Fessemaye, and he worked with Samuel at a gas station.

Along with Pfeiffer, two other passengers in the back seat of the Tesla were thrown from the vehicle during the crash, but they survived, according to police. A fourth passenger in the back seat, who was strapped in and not ejected, also survived.

Emerson Newquist, 20, from Pasadena and Bella Ramirez, 18, from Monrovia, were taken to a local hospital in stable condition, police said. The third survivor is an 17-year-old girl whose name has not been released by police; she was taken to a hospital and remained in critical condition as of Tuesday.

KTLA identified the girl as Samuel’s sister, Emily.

Newquist’s family said in GoFundMe post that the two of the men who died in the crash were his roommates.

“He is expected to make a full recovery though the process will be long and painful, both physically and emotionally,” the post said.

How the crash occurred

A toxicology exam will be done to determine if alcohol or drugs played a role in the crash, Pasadena Police Lt. Anthony Russo said.

Samuel appeared to have lost control of the vehicle at a bend in the road when he struck the curb. At this stage in the investigation, it does not appear that there was any malfunction with the 2018 Tesla Model 3, Russo said.

Local businesses in the area provided police with surveillance footage of the crash, but it’s unclear if authorities will release the footage to the public.

The Tesla collided with a power pole and sent power lines down into the street after the crash. The crash knocked out power for a section of Pasadena on Saturday morning.

The aftermath of the crash

A steady stream of friends, family members and local residents have visited the memorial in the industrial section of Pasadena. Some prayed and others left flowers or messages in a pair of leather notebooks on the sidewalk. A skateboard that read “Mike” was propped against the door of the ruined building to honor Pfeiffer, one of numerous mementos placed to honor the victims.

Maranatha High School released a statement about the crash because some of the victims involved were or had been students at the private Christian school. A school official told KABC-TV that two of the survivors are students there, along with one of the victims, presumably referring to Samuel. Grief counselors were being made available to the school and community, according to the statement posted to Facebook on Sunday.

The school asked the public to respect the privacy of the families whose loved ones were involved in the crash.

“We are deeply saddened by this weekend’s tragic car accident that claimed precious young lives. We mourn this immense loss and extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those affected,” the statement said. “During this difficult time, we turn to our faith in Christ Jesus for comfort and strength and ask others to join us in praying for all who are suffering due to this tragedy.”

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