Sugar Land man sold Tesla to doctor months before deadly crash

The original owner of the Tesla that crashed in The Woodlands earlier this month killing two people spoke to KPRC 2.

It’s been nearly two weeks since the fiery crash that killed Memorial Hermann doctor William Varner and his friend Everette Talbot on April 17.

Was or wasn’t there someone behind the wheel? Law enforcement officials said no one was sitting in the driver’s seat. Tesla said there had to have been because the steering wheel was deformed.

Jeff Rubenstein of Sugar Land told KPRC2 that he sold the Model S performance car to Varner in perfect condition this past January off eBay. Rubenstein said he never met the doctor in person because Varner sent a truck to pick the vehicle up.

“I’ve only had it for a year and I sold it to get a Model Y because of my back,” Rubenstein said. “I kinda have a bad back and the car is real low. So getting in and out of the car was just bothering me.”

Rubenstein said his old Tesla, the one he sold to Dr. Varner, is the company’s fastest model. He said it’s capable of going into Ludicrous Mode, where the car can increase speeds from zero to 60 mph in under three seconds. This can easily toss occupants back in their seats.

Rubenstein said he did not purchase autonomous driving with the car but it did have cruise control and autopilot features.

“I don’t think that car could drive itself without anybody in the driver’s seat. There’s no way that I know it could do that,” he said.

Rubenstein said he saw a Consumer Reports article earlier this month that caught his attention.

“Consumer Reports came out with a report I think just a week before that said you can hang something on the steering wheel and then get out of the driver seat and it will act like, it will think you’re there with your hands on the wheel,” he recalled. “If you’re not sitting there with your hand on the wheel and your foot near the break you know and something strange happens you can’t stop the car something bad can happen.”

The long-time Tesla customer said whatever happened inside that car the night Varner and his friend were killed was likely caused by user error.

“Like every (Tesla) accident, when the word has come out about what happened it’s always been the driver was doing something they shouldn’t have been doing,” he said. “And some people get cars like that and they think oh this is fun let me try to see if I can do this.”

The crash is under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.