Family Sues SpaceX for Negligence After Texas Crash Kills Man, Seeking $20M

A Texas family is suing SpaceX for negligence following a vehicle accident near the company's Boca Chica facility outside Brownsville that led to the death of a father-of-three.

Carlos Venegas, 35, was driving west along State Highway 4 with his wife and children at just after 4 a.m. on June 7, 2020 when their pickup truck crashed into the rear of an eighteen-wheeler commercial trailer, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Venegas, from San Benito, died at the scene due to blunt force trauma to his head, while the other passengers, including his children aged 14, 11 and two, suffered spinal and leg injuries.

The crash victim's wife, Lucinne Venegas, filed a lawsuit on March 15, 2021, in a Brownsville federal court seeking $20 million in damages from SpaceX and its affiliate, Dogleg Park LLC.

According to the lawsuit, which has been seen by Newsweek, the family had been camping at a beach site directly off State Highway 4, but at around 4 a.m. the tide at the beach began to rise, forcing them to leave and head home.

The complaint says Venegas was driving down the road in "utter darkness" when his vehicle crashed into the truck, which was delivering products to and from the SpaceX facility in the middle of the night.

The driver of the truck was attempting to access the site but due to the lack of lighting and conditions of the access point, he was unable to do so without difficulty, the complaint says. This allegedly forced the driver to back up unsafely and stop in the middle of the road.

"Without any reflective signage, lighting of any kind, warning markers, reflective markers, stop lights, stop signs, cones, security personnel, or safety systems, the Venegas family could not see the truck at all," the complaint says.

"This case is about holding SpaceX responsible for the gruesome death of Mrs. Venegas's husband, Mr. Venegas. In June 2020, SpaceX failed to maintain safe access points to its SpaceX facility, resulting in the Venegas family crashing into a delivery truck stalled at the entrance to SpaceX in the dark of night because it could not reasonably access SpaceX's narrow entrance to its facilities."

On April 16, 2021, SpaceX responded, denying all the allegations while arguing that Carlos Venegas was at fault for the accident, San Antonio Express News reported.

"But this was no accident," the lawsuit alleges. "Mr. Venegas's senseless death could have been avoided had Defendants taken specific steps to ensure that deliveries occurred safely and the access points in and around their facilities were safe and navigable by large commercial vehicles, accessing their facilities in the middle of the night.

"Mrs. Venegas brings this lawsuit to recover damages caused by Defendants' conduct and to ensure this tragedy never happens again."

The SpaceX facility in Boca Chica houses the company's operations in Texas, including the location where SpaceX launches its Falcon 9 rockets into space. Boca Chica is a small unincorporated community of about forty homes on the southernmost tip of Texas, which is only accessible via the two-lane State Highway 4.

The complaint argues that SpaceX had purchased significant land in Boca Chica but "utterly failed to update its property to accommodate its massive, commercial enterprises and round-the-clock commercial deliveries."

Newsweek has contacted SpaceX's lawyers in the case for comment.

SpaceX Boca Chica facility in Texas
A gated entrance by a prototype of SpaceX's Starship spacecraft is seen at the company's Texas launch facility on September 28, 2019 in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas. A Texas family is suing the company for negligence following a fatal crash near the facility in June 2020. Loren Elliott/Getty Images