Snohomish County woman urges safety changes after Tesla on autopilot crashed, killed fiancé

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — A Snohomish County woman is urging Tesla to make safety changes to its vehicles after a Tesla -- traveling on autopilot -- crashed and killed her fiancé on a busy highway.


A new court document released new details on the deadly crash involving a Tesla on State Route 522.

On Friday, April 19, Washington State Troopers received a call about a crash on SR 522 at Fales Road in Monroe.

In the document, troopers said they saw a blue Tesla, just west of Fales Road, on the center line of the highway, on top of a blue motorcycle with a man lying next to the Tesla’s rear side.

The victim was later identified as 28-year-old Jeffrey Nissen of Stanwood.

Authorities said the motorcyclist wore a GoPro, which was later collected as evidence.

The driver of the Tesla, Carl Hunter, 56, of Snohomish, told troopers he was driving eastbound on the highway on autopilot behind the motorcycle.

He was distracted by his phone when he heard a loud bang and the vehicle lurched forward, accelerated and crashed into the motorcycle, authorities said.

The Tesla was lodged on top of the motorcyclist.

Hunter also admitted to troopers that he had a drink of alcohol a few hours before the crash, troopers said.

He was later arrested for vehicular homicide.


KIRO 7 News spoke with Janae Hutchinson, the victim’s fiancé, on Wednesday.

Hutchinson said she had checked Nissen’s location on her phone twice that afternoon, as he was traveling home from his construction job in Redmond, when she noticed it stopped on State Route 522.

“I immediately knew something wasn’t right. He would always call me if he was going to be later than I expected,” she said. “I was going to make dinner for him. I didn’t want anyone to confirm it because it couldn’t be happening to me because he was coming home.”

“The reality really set in that I wasn’t going to see him again,” she added.

Hutchinson said she blames the driver and also Tesla for the deadly crash.

“I was so angry that someone could feel comfortable enough to rely on their vehicle to move them through traffic, and that they thought they could look at their phone, and just a split second, it took somebody’s life,” she shared.

“Why did that car not stop? Why is there not a feature. Why did it continue to lurch forward?” She added, “I dislike it (autopilot). I think it’s an easy feature to become comfortable with and allow you to think that I can just look at my phone real quick or the car will alert me if something happens.”

The mother of three stressed to KIRO 7 News that she urges Tesla to make change to its safety features to prevent another possible death.

“It’s really ironic what is considered to be one of the safe vehicles that has the best features that can protect somebody would take someone’s life,” she said.

Hutchinson and Nissen were engaged and had plans to get married.

He was a father figure to Hutchinson’s three children, she said, adding Nissen allowed her to quit her job to focus on her small business, while being a full-time mother.

“It’s so difficult for me to try and console my kids and say, ‘I’m so sorry. He’s not coming home,’” she shared. “He was like a dad to them. He taught them how to work on motorcycles. He taught my youngest how to ride a bike. He took us on adventures. He taught us how to go out and do something and it’s okay to think about yourself and indulge in something and feel good or to relax and be in the moment.”

A GoFundMe was created to help the family of the victim during this difficult time. If you would like to help, please click here.


Donalda Domina also told KIRO 7 News that she suffered a broken shoulder roughly three years ago when a Tesla, traveling on auto pilot, had crashed into her parked vehicle at a grocery store, off Highway 2, in Gold Bar.

Domina’s daughter left her vehicle a couple seconds before the Tesla rammed into her car, she told KIRO 7 News.

“Seconds after she left, the passenger side door got hit,” she said. “It could of killed her. That’s why it gets me so emotional, and I kept yelling at her for some reason to just go, go, hurry up and go.”

“I think they (drivers) rely too much on it (autopilot) maybe with where we are with so much with technology. We think things work because they say it supposed to work,” Domina added.


KIRO 7 News also spoke with Chris Davis, principal attorney and founder of Davis Law Group in Seattle, who has 30 years of experience in vehicle crashes, including vehicles with auto pilot features.

“This is not very common at all. We don’t see a lot of crashes involving Teslas or other vehicles that are equipped with autopilot. We just don’t see them very often. There are no specific laws in Washington State that deal with this type of incident, at least not yet,” he said.

Davis said he has never seen a case across the country where Tesla was held solely responsible for the crash.

“The fact that the car has an autopilot feature does not relieve the driver of the responsibility to drive safely and avoid collisions. That’s number one. Could the driver argue the auto pilot feature malfunctioned and therefore was at least partly to blame for what had happened? Yes, but it does not relieve the driver of the driver’s responsibility to make sure the car doesn’t crash or hit somebody,” he said.

Davis said the driver’s actions in Friday’s deadly crash may put him at fault.

“In this case, the fact the driver was not paying attention and looking at his phone while he was using auto pilot, that in of itself tells me as a lawyer that the driver was not acting safely because everybody knows autopilot can malfunction in certain circumstances. It’s not 100% guaranteed it’s going to drive safely,” he shared.


According to Tesla’s website, the company began recalling vehicles to dissuade drivers from misusing the auto pilot feature in December of 2023.

The electric vehicle company will update the software of impacted vehicles to “encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous supervisory responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged,” the company’s website wrote.

The company recalled several models, including Model S vehicles from 2012 to 2023.

KIRO 7 News looked at court documents, which indicated the suspect’s vehicle was included in the latest recall.

However, it’s not clear if the suspect’s vehicle was updated.

The recall only affects vehicles in the U.S. and Canada.

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