PARIS (Reuters) – The off-duty taxi driver who crashed a Tesla Model 3 in Paris on Saturday night ploughed through metal posts, a row of pay-to-ride bicycles, a recycling bin full of glass and hit pedestrians and a van before finally coming to a halt, witnesses said.
Tillard Diomande was serving clients from behind his bar in the Moonlight African restaurant when the Tesla careened past. When he stepped outside, he said it was carnage.
“I thought it was an attack. There was glass, dust … it was as if there had been a blast,” Diomande told Reuters.
One person was killed, three were seriously hurt and another 17 injured in the accident in the 13th arrondissement of the capital on a street lined with bars, restaurants and shops.
“Heard explosion, silence, cries. A war scene below. Very, very shocking,” a teacher who lives in an apartment above the crash site told Reuters via Twitter.
CCTV video footage from inside the nearby Sarawan restaurant showed a black car racing down Avenue d’Ivry at high speed, followed by a loud crash a couple of seconds later.
Diners turn their heads in the direction the car was travelling. One woman puts a hand over her mouth, another clasps her hands to her chest and people outside run towards the crash.
A police source said the driver told investigators he had deliberately steered the car into objects to bring it to a halt.
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.
Local resident Rosanna Zorzi described fist-sized chunks of glass scattered across the intersection where the Tesla stopped. She had crossed the street minutes earlier to reach the Pho Banh Cuon restaurant and helped tend to the injured, some of whom had been hit by flying glass.
“I’ve never heard a sound like it. It was the sound of hell,” Zorzi, 25, said of the crash. “There was an old man who was in a very bad way. I helped a woman who had been struck in the leg by fragments of glass.”
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told a news conference that Tesla had informed the government there was no immediate indication that a technical fault was to blame.
Waiter Idris Benlalli witnessed the end of the Tesla’s destructive path.
He said the electric car destroyed a rank of hire bicycles and sent a glass recycling bin flying several metres through the air before shards of glass sprayed the area.
The Tesla’s front-left corner crumpled, its windscreen shattered and its entire left-hand side was badly damaged.
Debris lay strewn across the tarmac.
“It was chaos,” Benlalli said.
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Additional reporting by Layli Foroudi; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by David Clarke and Philippa Fletcher)