After viral Tesla crash, Echo Park residents left to pick up the pieces

A car driving down Baxter Street in 2018, which is one of the steepest streets in L.A. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

For the internet, the black Tesla that jumped over the Baxter Street hill over the weekend was a viral moment to behold.

But to musician Jordan Hook, it was just the car that crashed into his Subaru.

Just after midnight Sunday, the driver behind the wheel of a 2018 Tesla S-BLM launched over the steep hill in Echo Park and crash-landed into several trash cans and two cars, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The Tesla was airborne for just a few seconds, but its maiden flight went viral. The Tesla landed on its nose and skidded into the back of Hook’s 2009 light blue Subaru Forester.

The Tesla pushed Hook’s Subaru several feet.

“It’s a little beyond inconvenient,” Hook said in front of his disabled Subaru on Monday morning. The tires sat at an unnatural angle and one of them was deflated.

“The car won’t start and the steering column is shot, but I won’t know the full extent of damage until I get someone to look at it,” Hook said. “I can’t drive it. I don’t know how any of this happened. I mean, I do know, but it’s just been so much to take in.”

Jonathan Sutak, Hook’s neighbor, said he noticed people setting up on Baxter Street before the jump. He said one of the headlights from the Tesla landed near his front door.

“We all came out after the crash and saw people climbing out of the Tesla,” Sutak said. The LAPD did not say how many people were in the car, but videos from the crash showed multiple people and a cat in the car during the crash.

Hook, 37, said he spent more than $4,500 for a new motor just in the last month. Hook, who has lived on Baxter Street for over 3 1/2 years, said he relies on his car to take him to gigs.

Hook said an LAPD officer explained to him soon after the crash that there was not much they could do because the Tesla driver only caused property damage. But by Sunday evening, the collision had gone viral and more attention was being paid to the wreck. Police gave Hook more information about their investigation later in the day.

“They told me they were going to get the guy. At first, police said they couldn’t do much, but now it’s completely turned around,” Hook said. “I guess that’s thanks to the power of the community talking about all of this.”

LAPD Det. Calvin Dehesa said the Tesla was rented from an Enterprise Rent-A-Car, but it’s unclear if the person who rented the car was behind the wheel when it went airborne.

“We have no identity (of the driver) right now,” Dehesa said Monday morning. “We still have to talk to the person who rented the car.”

Currently, the driver behind the stunt faces a misdemeanor for the hit-and-run. The LAPD has issued a $1,000 reward for anyone who provides information to the identity and apprehension and conviction of the Tesla driver, who abandoned the car.

“We’re just lucky that he didn’t kill himself,” Dehesa said. “We want to make sure that no one tries to duplicate this.”

Hook said less than a day after the Tesla jump, he heard that someone tried to jump over the Baxter Street hill on a dirt bike. In 2020, a YouTube influencer uploaded a video of his Tesla SUV jumping over the same intersection and the hill with its 32% grade. The hill is the bane of any driver unlucky enough to be directed to the street by a driving app.

Before the wreck Sunday, the unidentified Tesla driver attended a Tesla meetup on Saturday hosted by popular car enthusiast Alex Choi, according to a video uploaded to his YouTube channel.

In his video, Choi was among a group of people at the intersection of North Alvarado and Baxter streets when the Tesla revved up the hill at a high speed before it launched over the crest of the hill and soared through the air.

“It landed on the front bumper, just skidded down the street,” Choi recounted in his video. “I don’t know anyone that’s in this car.”

Choi also said there were multiple people in the Tesla during the wreck. He said the cat was OK afterward.

Throughout a video that bounces between humorous and deadly serious, Choi tells his viewers not to try duplicating the stunt.

“I never want to see anyone die in front of me,” Choi said in the video. “That is my worst living nightmare. Think twice before you do anything stupid. Let none of us, none of the YouTube clout-chasing influencers like me become any motivation for you guys.”

Choi did not respond to requests for comment.

After the other Tesla drivers fled Baxter Street, Choi returned to the scene and took stock of the damage done to Hook’s Subaru. Choi held up the flashlight from his cell phone and said, “The damage isn’t that bad.”

Hook does not agree and said he’s out of a car. He’s a bit stunned by the outpouring of support and vitriol he’s received after he posted a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to repair his car.

“I’m unsure about the process. People were questioning whether the damage was as bad as I said it was,” Hook said. “It’s all a bit hard to navigate.”

Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact the LAPD at (213)-833-3713.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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