SpaceX Drive for Profit Led to Road Crash Death, Family Says

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Billionaire Elon Musk’s company that’s preparing to land people on the moon was too cheap to make a Texas roadway safe, leading to a traffic accident that killed a local man, the victim’s attorney claims in a lawsuit.

Carlos Venegas, 35, was driving his family home from a beach camping trip around 4 a.m. on July 7, 2020, when he slammed into the back of an idling eighteen-wheeler trying to enter a one-lane, unlit access road to Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s rocket launch facility at Boca Chica, Texas, according to the complaint.

Commercial truckers have difficulty navigating the access road at the southernmost tip of Texas even during daylight hours, claims Tony Buzbee, the victim’s family lawyer. SpaceX should’ve widened the road, installed safety lighting and installed warnings to beachgoers that there could be trucks stopped there, Buzbee said in the complaint. Instead, SpaceX skimped on safety to push its development timeline, he said.

Venegas died from head injuries, while his wife and three children suffered serious injuries to their spines and legs, according to the complaint, which moved from state court to federal court in nearby Brownsville on Friday. The family seeks more than $20 million in damages.

“This was no accident,” Buzbee said in the complaint, which also names Dogleg Park, a Texas partnership that owns the SpaceX property.

“Defendants are multibillion-dollar corporations owned and operated by some of America’s most successful minds,” Buzbee said. “It is inconceivable that defendants are qualified to fly rocket ships to the International Space Station but cannot adequately outfit the access points in and around their ‘Cape-Canaveral-like’ enterprise.”

NASA announced Friday that SpaceX had won a $2.9 billion contract to build the first commercial human lander to carry a pair of U.S. astronauts to the moon’s surface by 2024.

David G. Olveira and Rene Oliveira, two of SpaceX’s lawyers, didn’t immediately return phone or emailed requests for comment. SpaceX’s media department also didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The case is Venegas v Space Exploration Technologies Corp., 1:21-cv-54, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Brownsville).

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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