Family files $20M lawsuit against SpaceX after fatal car accident

U.S. & World

June 7, 2020 photo of crash involving the Venegas family and an 18 wheeler obstructing Highway 4 as it was attempting to enter the SpaceX facility around 4 a.m. (Credit: Texas Department of Public Safety

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — A Texas family has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against SpaceX following the death of a family member after a car crash that happened outside the launch site.

On June 7, 2020, the Venegas family of five, of San Benito, were on a camping trip to the beach when rising tides forced them to leave at around 4 a.m.

As they drove on Highway 4, they crashed into an 18-wheeler that was stalled outside the SpaceX facility, resulting in the death of husband and father, Carlos Javier Venegas, 35.

Venegas’ wife, Lucinne Venegas, and their three children suffered injuries to their spines and legs.

The autopsy reported Venegas’ cause of death was “blunt force trauma caused by a motor vehicle accident.” 

The family is suing SpaceX for $20 million in damages, claiming that this was the result of gross negligence on SpaceX’s behalf. 

Attorneys for the Venegas family state that SpaceX failed to equip and update the highway to account for the heavy-duty and constant use, according to the court documents.  

The attorneys said that SpaceX should have added adequate lighting, warnings, and procedures to direct obstructive third-party delivery vehicles, so that beachgoers could travel through the site safely, especially at night.  

They also claimed that the burden was on SpaceX, not the local government, to widen the highway to account for the extra traffic load. 

In the case of the 18-wheeler involved in the crash, the court documents said the highway was too narrow, dark and difficult to navigate, and this is likely what caused it to obstruct the highway.  

“This was about profits and timing. It was not about safety. [SpaceX was] determined to rush construction and open operations of its massive enterprise in Boca Chica, and it resulted in the death of Mr. Venegas,” wrote the Venegas attorneys.

Attorneys for SpaceX claimed that is not the case, saying it was negligence on Venegas’ part that caused the accident.  

They wrote that Venegas “failed to use the degree of care and caution which would have been exercised by persons of ordinary prudence under the same or similar circumstances, and was, therefore, negligent in the operation in question.”

Nexstar’s KVEO has reached out to both parties in this case and was awaiting a response. 

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