Woodlands, TX – A close friend of a man who died when a Tesla crashed into a tree and burned says he believes Dr. William Varner was trying to save his own life by getting into the back seat of the car.
“I’ve been going weeks without being able to sleep because I can’t get it out of my mind. It’s just horrible,” said Varner’s best friend Bob Wortham who lives in Beaumont.
Varner and his friend, Everette Talbot, died when the 2019 Tesla Model S crashed and caught fire near the Woodlands on April 17.
First responders found Talbot in the front passenger’s seat of the car. Varner was in the back seat. No one was found in the driver’s seat.
“The reason he was in the back seat, he was trying to save his life,” Wortham told KPRC 2. “It was such a painful experience for the whole family.”
The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary crash report on Monday. It revealed that the doctor’s home security cameras showed him getting into the front seat of the car and backing out of the driveway.
The report stated that the car crashed 550 feet away from the house after the car went over a curb, hit a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and then a tree. The impact damaged the car’s lithium-ion battery case.
“There was a neighbor that saw and came over to see what was going on and he said the damage on the front of the car was minor damage,” said Wortham.
Wortham believes Varner, a car enthusiast, could not get out of the car and was burned alive.
“This car was burned so bad that they couldn’t identify either of the people by their dental records. That’s how bad they were burned,” he said.
Wortham said Varner spent his life trying to save the lives of others. It was his passion.
“Bill Varner was one of the best people I have ever known in my life,” said Wortham. “I lost one of my best friends.”
KPRC 2 reached out to Tesla for comment, but we have not heard back.
The NTSB is still investigating and if needed will issue recommendations to prevent future crashes.