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Elon Musk opens up about son's death: 'Nothing worse than losing a child'

The series of emails was first reported is included in a court filing that was submitted in December in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of one of the crash victims riding a Tesla car.

February 11, 2022 / 12:33 PM IST
(Image credit: Photo tweeted by @ChaseMit)

(Image credit: Photo tweeted by @ChaseMit)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk opened up about the death of his firstborn son in a 2018 email exchange that was recently made public with the parent of a driver who died in a Tesla crash.

"There is nothing worse than losing a child," Musk wrote in an email to James Riley dated May 10, 2018, reports Business Insider.

In 2018, Riley's 18-year-old son Barrett Riley and his friend died in a car crash when he lost control of a Tesla Model S going about 116 miles per hour and crashed into a concrete wall in Florida.

The series of emails was first reported by Bloomberg and is included in a court filing that was submitted in December in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Edgar Monserratt, the front seat passenger  and Barett Riley's friend who also died in the crash.
The thread of messages spanning almost seven weeks offers a glimpse into Musk’s personal involvement in customer relations around a horrific accident. He even brings up his own loss, one he has rarely discussed in public.

“My firstborn son died in my arms. I felt his last heartbeat,” Elon Musk wrote, referring to his son Nevada Alexander Musk who died when he was 10 weeks old.

Musk goes as far as fulfilling Riley’s request that the car company tweak a computerized feature to make it easier for parents to control the maximum speed a Tesla will go.

In June 2018, Tesla sent out a software update to its speed limit feature that would let drivers set the maximum speed between 50 mph and 90 mph through the car’s smartphone app or user interface through a four-digit PIN. Language in the owner’s manual was updated to say the feature was dedicated in the memory of Barrett Riley, reported Bloomberg.

“I’ve never asked for acknowledgment for anything in my life, but it would be nice to acknowledge that Barrett and Edgar’s loss led to the enhanced safety of others,” Riley wrote to Musk on May 31, 2018.

Two days prior, Musk told Riley that Tesla “is doing everything we can to improve safety. My friends, family and I all drive Teslas, and even if they didn’t I would still do everything I could.”

Almost two years after the email exchange, Riley filed a product liability suit against Tesla in a Florida federal court. His Tesla vehicle’s “burst into an uncontrollable and fatal fire” after the crash, according to the complaint. “Barrett Riley was killed by the battery fire, not by the accident,” he said.

Riley asked Tesla two months before the accident to install a speed limiter device in its car for his son’s safety, but it was removed without permission when the car was taken to Tesla to be serviced, according to the complaint.

If not for Tesla’s negligence, the limiter would have prevented the accident and “Barrett Riley would be alive today,” according to the complaint.

Currently, the lawyer in the ongoing court case is trying to persuade a judge to order Musk to submit to questioning about Tesla’s Autopilot assisted-driving feature.

Moneycontrol News
first published: Feb 11, 2022 11:37 am