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Man who crashed Tesla into house, killing 2, was going 116 mph, troopers say

Vaughn W. Mongan, 43, of Palm Harbor, faces two counts of vehicular homicide and other charges in connection with the Sept. 3 crash.
This Sept. 10 file photo shows a Palm Harbor home on Caird Way that was heavily damaged Sept. 3 when a Tesla driver lost control. The vehicle struck the back of the house, killing a 69-year-old woman who lived there.
This Sept. 10 file photo shows a Palm Harbor home on Caird Way that was heavily damaged Sept. 3 when a Tesla driver lost control. The vehicle struck the back of the house, killing a 69-year-old woman who lived there. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 8
Updated Oct. 8

A Palm Harbor man is facing vehicular homicide charges in connection with a Sept. 3 crash in which he was driving a Tesla at least 116 mph in a 30-mph zone and plowed into a house.

Two people, a 69-year-old woman in the home and a 43-year-old passenger in the car, were killed.

On Friday, Florida Highway Patrol troopers arrested Vaughn W. Mongan, 43, on two counts of vehicular homicide. He also faces three charges of reckless driving resulting in serious injury and one count of reckless driving resulting in property damage.

Vaughn W. Mongan, 43, faces two counts of vehicular homicide.
Vaughn W. Mongan, 43, faces two counts of vehicular homicide. [ Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office ]

According to an arrest report, Mongan was driving a friend’s Tesla with four passengers inside about 10:15 p.m. when he accelerated to a speed of at least 116 mph on Manning Road, where the speed limit is 30 mph.

Mongan blew through the stop sign at Hermosa Drive, a T-intersection, at a high rate of speed and launched off a grassy embankment, the report states. The Tesla crashed through a vinyl fence and into the back of a home on 1498 Caird Way.

A passenger in the Tesla, Travis Meisman of Odessa, died from his injuries a short time later at a local hospital. The three other passengers in the Tesla — Sean Donahue, Colin Keeler and Christopher French — were all seriously injured, according to the report.

The car struck a woman inside the home, Donna Rein, and crashed partially through the front of the house. Rein died at the scene.

Troopers said the Tesla was not reported to be on autopilot. Mongan was being held in the Pinellas County Jail Friday evening.

Vaughn W. Mongan, 43, was driving this 2021 Tesla Model S at a high rate of speed on Sept. 3 when he blew through a stop sign at the corner of Manning Road and Hermosa Drive in Palm Harbor, launched off a grassy embankment and crashed into a home, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A passenger in the Tesla and a woman inside the home were killed and three passengers in the Tesla were seriously injured.
Vaughn W. Mongan, 43, was driving this 2021 Tesla Model S at a high rate of speed on Sept. 3 when he blew through a stop sign at the corner of Manning Road and Hermosa Drive in Palm Harbor, launched off a grassy embankment and crashed into a home, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A passenger in the Tesla and a woman inside the home were killed and three passengers in the Tesla were seriously injured. [ Florida Highway Patrol ]

Rein’s daughter, Amber Mooney, got the call that someone had crashed into her mother’s home shortly after arriving in Cedar Key for a staycation. Mooney and her husband turned around to head back to Palm Harbor.

Mooney said her mother was a kind caretaker who would go out of her way to help others.

“My mom was very creative, and she loved to make things,” Mooney said. “She loved to paint, and she loved to crochet blankets.”

Mooney’s sister, Lindsey Jones, lived in the home with their mother. Jones’ two children also lived in the home, though they were not there at the time of the crash, Mooney said. The family’s dog, Lily, was also killed in the crash, she said.

From left to right: Amber Mooney's daughter, Taylor, Amber Mooney, Donna Rein, Lindsey Johnson and her daughter, Kendall.
From left to right: Amber Mooney's daughter, Taylor, Amber Mooney, Donna Rein, Lindsey Johnson and her daughter, Kendall. [ Courtesy of Amber Mooney ]

Jones and her children stayed in a hotel for several weeks until they were able to get a rental home. Rein’s home was fully paid off and she helped pay the family’s other monthly bills, while Jones worked a part-time job and cared for her two disabled children, Mooney said. With the home destroyed and Rein gone, the family has been struggling to make ends meet.

The family dog, Lily, was also killed by the driver that crashed through the family home.
The family dog, Lily, was also killed by the driver that crashed through the family home. [ Courtesy of Amber Mooney ]

Mooney has been helping pay the bills, but since the time of her mother’s death, her car was struck in a head-on collision and her husband got pneumonia. Both have been out of work for about a month. The outpouring of generosity from the community has helped them pull through, Mooney said. The family has a GoFundMe to help pay their bills.

“From friends of ours and family members of ours to complete strangers, stepping up and doing all kinds of things — of donating items and food and money — it’s incredible,” she said. “We wouldn’t be getting through this without all that.”

In this Sept. 10 photo, a memorial is seen behind a Palm Harbor home one week after a Tesla crashed into the house, located at 1498 Caird Way, killing a 69-year-old woman who lived there. An Odessa man, 43, who was a passenger in the car, later died of injuries from the crash at a nearby hospital. The driver and three other passengers were seriously injured.
In this Sept. 10 photo, a memorial is seen behind a Palm Harbor home one week after a Tesla crashed into the house, located at 1498 Caird Way, killing a 69-year-old woman who lived there. An Odessa man, 43, who was a passenger in the car, later died of injuries from the crash at a nearby hospital. The driver and three other passengers were seriously injured. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
A Tesla lost control and struck the back of a Palm Harbor home, killing a 69-year-old woman who lived there.
A Tesla lost control and struck the back of a Palm Harbor home, killing a 69-year-old woman who lived there. [ Florida Highway Patrol ]