Tesla Traps Toddler Inside Car After 12-Volt Battery Dies In 100-Degree Heat

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Screenshot: Arizona Family

A Tesla trapped a toddler inside due to a dead 12-volt battery this week, requiring Arizona firefighters to come save the child’s life.

The incident happened in Scottsdale, Arizona, where temperatures crested over 100 degrees all week. Renee Sanchez and her 20-month-old granddaughter were on their way to the Phoenix Zoo. Sanchez says that after she secured her granddaughter in her child seat, closed the door to her Model Y and went to get in the driver’s seat, she discovered the door to her Tesla wouldn’t open. Sanchez says she tried everything to get in the car but it wouldn’t open. From Arizona Family:

“And I closed the door, went around the car, get in the front seat, and my car was dead,” she said. “I could not get in. My phone key wouldn’t open it. My card key wouldn’t open it.”

As On Your Side explained in a recent report, when the Tesla battery that operates electronics dies, a hidden latch on the driver’s side armrest will manually unlock the door. Many Tesla owners don’t know about this latch.

But in this case, Sanchez was stuck outside of her Tesla while the toddler was trapped inside, buckled into a car seat.

Sanchez tells On Your Side she had no option but to call 911, which immediately sent out Scottsdale firefighters.

“And when they got here, the first thing they said was, ‘Uggh, it’s a Tesla. We can’t get in these cars,’” she said. “And I said, ‘I don’t care if you have to cut my car in half. Just get her out.’”


It turns out the Tesla’s 12-volt battery had died, rendering the car a giant brick. We’ve seen this happen before. When this happens, there is an emergency switch not many people seem to know about located near the driver’s side armrest that will open the doors. In this case, however, that latch would have been of no help; Sanchez was outside the car and there’s no way a toddler would know to release an emergency latch.

Knowing that the temp inside the Tesla was rising quickly, Sanchez called the fire department:

Firefighters were forced to break a window with an axe, but they first covered the window with tape to keep the glass from flying. “She was OK for the first few minutes,” Sanchez said. “But as soon as the firemen came and all the commotion started and the windows getting broken into, she started crying because she was scared.”

A firefighter climbed through the window and pulled the little girl free. They even gave her a little fire hat to calm her down.

Sanchez was thankful that firefighters were able to get her granddaughter out. She says though that the brand needs to do a better job of explaining to people what to do in situations like this. “They need to educate the first responders because they had no idea,” Sanchez said. “They were as much in the dark as I was.”

There is a way to jump start a Tesla from the outside, but it’s so complicated it wouldn’t make sense to do in a situation where a child is stuck inside. As for Sanchez and her Tesla, she says she’s a fan of the brand, but told AZ Family that this latest episode has shaken her faith.

Unfortunately, children sweltering to death in cars is a very real risk, especially in sunny and hot Southwest United States. Around this time last year three children died in three separate incidents of being left in hot cars. On average, 37 kids die in hot cars every year, Consumer Reports reports.

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