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What we know about Tesla’s fatal crash in Pasadena

The Pasadena Police Department released more information Tuesday about the violent, high-speed crash of a Tesla that claimed the lives of three young people early Saturday morning — and narrowly avoided more victims.

Police say Moheb Samuel, 22, was driving more than 100 mph on E. Foothill Boulevard shortly after 2:30 a.m. Saturday when he narrowly missed hitting a car traveling north at intersection of Foothill Boulevard and Sierra Madre Boulevard. The Tesla then left the road, struck a light pole and became airborne after hitting a curb on the north side of the road.

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

Who was in the car during the accident

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

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

Stefan Michael Pfeiffer, 20, of Pasadena, also died at the scene. He was one of 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 kind to his grandfather and grandmother,” Sergio Nava, a 20-year-old friend of Pfeiffer, said Monday at the accident site, as his voice cracked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the accident happened

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

Samuel appears to have lost control of the vehicle on a curve when he hit the curb. At this point in the investigation, there does not appear to have been a malfunction with the 2018 Tesla Model 3, Russo said.

Local businesses in the area have provided police with surveillance footage of the crash, but it is unclear whether authorities will release that footage to the public.

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

The consequences of the accident

A steady stream of friends, family and local residents visited the memorial located in Pasadena’s industrial district. Some prayed and others left flowers or messages in a pair of leather notebooks on the sidewalk. A skateboard reading “Mike” leaned against the door of the ruined building to honor Pfeiffer, one of many mementos placed in honor of the victims.

Maranatha High School released a statement about the accident 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 were students, as was one of the victims, likely referring to Samuel. Grief counselors have been made available to the school and community, according to the statement posted Sunday on Facebook.

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

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

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